Top Bulgarian TV Halts again Broadcasts for Cable Operator
Effective midnight Tuesday into Wednesday, Bulgaria's largest private TV network, bTV, took off once again its channels from major cable provider Bulsatcom.
The grounds remain breach of contract on the part of Bulsatcom by failing to pay dues and quoting a lower than real number of users to reduce fees.
The two sides could not seal a contract for 2013 over the said reasons.
On Wednesday, Bulsatcom issued a statement to its customers that despite their efforts to reach an agreement with acceptable clauses for clients, bTV Media Group stopped its transmission to them because the 2012 contract has now expired. The cable operator, however, notes that they still harbor hopes for a fair outcome.
It is expected that negotiations will continue, but as of Wednesday afternoon, there are no reports about a new development.
Bulsatcom further informs their customers that they will pay lower fees during the time they cannot watch the bTV channels.
The TV stopped airing its programs for Bulsatcom customers on December 22, but reinstated the transmission two days later, all while stressing this was a temporary measure, just so that viewers can still enjoy the programs during the holidays.
Negotiations failed in the last work day in Bulgaria for 2012 – December 28. bTV insists the cable operator owes them money, while Bulsatcom firmly rejects the claim.
bTV has been followed by TV7, which declared they would not be renewing their contract with Bulsatcom on the same grounds. Later, TV7 also decided that it was more important for them to not deprive viewers from their programs and continued the broadcast.
Bulsatcom received support from the 21-member Bulgarian Association of Cable Communication Operators (BACCO), which on December 31 announced it will have to suspend bTV and TV7 from their programs, as their actions constituted a cessation of contract.
The Association also added that bTV's new requirements could result in cable operators being forced to up prices for end users. Representatives of the Association of Telecom Users have argued that the move by bTV and TV7 aims at diverting users from Bulsatcom to Vivacom. However, Vivacom is also a BACCO member.
The Users' Association stated that it had already sent Commissioner Nellie Kroes a letter regarding what they called a "dishonest trade practice" on the part of the TV channels.
In response, bTV also sent a letter of complaint to the European Commission over what it saw as "unfair actions" on part of Bulsatcom.
Currently, bTV can be seen non-cable with an antenna and life online.
Bulsatcom promises to assist their customers with installing non-cable antennas.