Temporary relief at DF1

BERLIN — DF1, Germany’s first digital pay TV web, can continue to market and sell subscriptions na-tionwide. A district court in Hamburg granted Munich-based DF1 a temporary suspension of a legal injunction obtained against DF1 by pay TV channel Premiere on Jan. 22. The court had ordered DF1 to refrain from advertis-ing and recruiting new customers outside of the state of Bavaria, which had issued DF1 its license.

In filing the injunction against DF1, Premiere was taking advantage of a gap in German broadcasting laws in the new area of digital television. Premiere argued that DF1’s license only allows it to operate as a pilot project in Bavaria. While Bavarian media authorities claim that the license granted to DF1 applies to the entire country, the Hamburg court decided that licenses must be obtained from each of the 16 German states, not all of which are prepared to approve digital broadcasting. Media legislation that went into effect at the beginning of the year demands that nationwide licenses for newly established commercial webs must be approved by a special competition committee, but that committee does not yet exist. DF1 is appealing the injunction, and will be able to continue to operate in all parts of Germany under the temporary suspension.

DF1, owned by media mogul Leo Kirch, has only signed on 20,000 subscribers since its launch in July. While Kirch also holds a share in Premiere, the channel currently is controlled by Kirch competitor Bertelsmann. Starting with a pilot project in February, Premiere plans to use its base of 1.4 million analog subscribers to move into the digital realm. DF1 and Premiere have been locked in a legal tug-of-war over the right to advertise and broadcast premium programming since August.

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