As the latest development of a high profile legal dispute which started in 2012, the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf (Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf) decided on July 12, 2017 that the German public service broadcasters have to pay a total of around €3.5 million for the cable distribution of their channels. The court case only covered the carriage fees for the year 2013 and the first quarter of 2016.
In spring 2011, ARD, ZDF and Arte had cancelled their carriage contracts with the three major German cable operators: Kabel Deutschland, Kabel BW and Unitymedia.
Are public service broadcasters obliged to pay fees for the distribution of their channels on cable networks? The Court does not take position on the substance. However, in the opinion of the court, the carriage contract from 2008 had not been effectively cancelled, meaning that the public service broadcasters are still obliged to pay carriage fees. Moreover, the court stated that the cancellation declarations of the broadcasters were violating anti-trust laws (more particularly the section 1 of the Law on Competition restrictions (GWB)), as “they have not been made for individual economic reasons, but on the grounds of a jointly-made illegal agreement.”
The court also stated that the carriage contract as such was not in violation of cartel law.