OPTA rules for Canal Plus

UPC's A2000 must carry Dutch digital premium channel

AMSTERDAM — Dutch telecommunications authority OPTA has ruled in favor of Canal Plus in a long-running dispute the French pay TV king has had with United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC).

UPC is the largest private cable company in Europe. The dispute could be a test of the new regulatory org OPTA’s power, involving as it does two of Europe’s largest companies.

In the recent OPTA decision, UPC subsidiary A2000 will be required to carry, within the next two months, the digital version of the Dutch Canal Plus premium channel, currently available only in analog format on the cable network.

OPTA also gave Canal Plus the go-ahead to use its own decoders, also an issue which had became part of the dispute.

In the earlier disputes, Canal Plus had contended that A2000 carriage fees were too high and UPC had contended it wasn’t able to offer the digital service Canal Plus wanted at the present time. UPC plans to launch its own digital services early next year.

The current OPTA decision was in response to an appeal by UPC of an earlier decision in favor of Canal Plus.

OPTA several months ago issued new cable guidelines which clearly targeted UPC, whose subsid A2000 has been sued by many of the Dutch broadcasters for excessively high carriage fees. The guidelines specify that costs and profits cable companies make must be reasonable.

UPC was not available for comment but company higher-ups had indicated earlier that such disputes could be taken fartherup the line, to a European court, if necessary.