Revolution on the broadcasting market in Poland
Politicians in government circles have recently proposed a bill amending the Broadcasting Act, dubbed publicly the “Lex Pilot”. The reason for this is that the Polish government wishes to decide by itself, and impose without consulting market players, the positioning of certain channels on the EPG in each television operator. Interestingly, the channels given priority would be solely the channels of the public (state) broadcaster (TVP).
The specific rules laid down in the bill amending the Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting
- The positioning of five TVP channels on EPGs will be predetermined. All television operators , whether satellite, cable, IP TV, or of television streamed online, will be required to place the TVP channels in the top five positions in their television service. What this means in practice is that operators’ contracts with broadcasters will have to be renegotiated because EPG positioning is in general a major condition in channel rebroadcasting agreements.
- The list of must carry / must offer channels will be extended under the proposal to include two TVP channels, which are a news and current affairs commentary channel and the culture and art channel.
- The National Broadcasting Council will have the power to issue a regulation designating a further ten channels as must carry / must offer channels.
- The must carry obligation would also apply, in addition to the channel signal itself, to other elements of a channel and the data disseminated at the same time as the channel, such as tools enabling easier access to content, that supports the functioning of hybrid television and EPGs.
- Television operators will not be permitted to include pre-roll advertisements prior to broadcast of a distributed channel.
- Television operators will obtain a channel signal from the source signal shared with the operator by the broadcaster concerned, unless the broadcaster stipulates a different signal source (the broadcaster’s content delivery network /CDN/ will have to be implemented).
- Broadcasters will not be able to make conclusion of a channel rebroadcasting agreement conditional upon conclusion of an agreement for rebroadcasting of a channel or set of channels other than the channel requested by the operator.
- A broadcaster will not be permitted to unfairly differentiate between the fees charged for giving operators access to the same channel or packages containing the same channels.
- A television operator will not be able to make conclusion of an agreement for distribution of channels with a user conditional upon concluding an agreement for services other than channel distribution or purchase of a device (an operator will not be able to offer a TV service only as part of a bundled offer with other services, e.g. broadband internet or voice services. It must be offered solo).
- The television operator will be required to give a user the option of purchasing individual channels and will not be permitted to make conclusion of an agreement for distribution of those channels conditional upon conclusion of an agreement for distribution of other channels or a set of channels, except must carry / must offer channels (compulsory a la carte offer).
Almost all of the industry organizations in Poland were critical of the proposal in the opinions they issued. The primary objection is that no public consultations and impact assessment have been conducted, especially as it would mean a substantial change in the current business models on the Polish TV market.
The bill is currently undergoing reading in the Polish parliament. Public hearings are scheduled to be held for 6 March. The bill provides for a vacatio legis of only three months.