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Pubcasters’ double-dip is all wet

Saban hopes to create 'even playing field' in biz

BERLIN — Haim Saban issued a sugarcoated threat to Germany’s license fee-rich pubcasters on Wednesday.

The smiling and relaxed owner of the country’s biggest broadcast group, ProSiebenSat 1, told a media confab in Munich he would work with pubcasters ARD and ZDF and regulators to create “an even playing field” in the industry. But that means sweeping away the pubcasters’ rights to raise extra money from advertising.

Saban, who took over ProSiebenSat 1 from the insolvent Kirch Media in August, said a “clear and dangerous double standard” gave ARD and ZDF an unfair advantage: not only do they collect billions in license fees, but they augment their financing through scarce adverting revenue.

“Public channels collect license fees to the tune of E6.5 billion ($7.6 billion) while all private stations combined collect only E4 billion ($4.7 billion) from advertising,” Saban said, “why then are public channels allowed to carry advertising and sponsorship to the tune of hundreds of millions a year on top of their billions in license fees?”

The Israeli-American billionaire also accused pubcasters of using product placement in programming, a practice for which commercial webs would risk sanctions.

Advertising accounts for less than 10% of the pubcasters’ revenue. Saban said doing away with advertising on ARD and ZDF would put more money into the pockets of the commercial broadcasters, including his own group, and ensure diversity on the air.

Saban would not divulge anything about ProSiebenSat 1’s plans for the future, because he was loathe to give the competition — meaning RTL, whose top execs were sitting in the audience — any information.

“All I can say is that soon you will see and feel our presence,” he said, stressing he would remain in Germany for the long haul. “This opportunity is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Saban also expressed confidence that the German economy would turn around. “We believe in Germany. We believe in the hardworking German people.”

The three-day Medientage Muenchen confab will wrap Friday.

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