Panel OKs merger, fines for payboxes

Broadcasters claim CNTV has erred in its calculations

Colombia’s National Television Commission has given its seal of approval to the merger of payboxes Sky and DirecTV here — but the Rupert Murdoch-backed payboxes must pay fines to the tune of almost $8.6 million to the TV watchdog.

The CNTV and the companies are still discussing a disagreement over the amount of regulatory fees; the broadcasters claim CNTV has erred in its calculations.

For the merger to go ahead, both broadcasters will have to maintain the same conditions for subscribers in urban and rural areas of the country as well as keep charges at current levels in line with contractual agreements with subscribers.

“With this measure (approving the merger), the CNTV is looking for a way to protect the subscribers and, of course, to protect the public interest,” said Jorge Figueroa Clausen, director of the CNTV.

The CNTV has agreed to allow both companies time to pay the fees it claims they owe. However, Sky TV and DirecTV said if the fee problem is not resolved by the end of the year, subscribers will suffer, as Sky will be forced off the air in Colombia.

The two payboxes have a combined market share of around 7% in Colombia with a total of 100,000 subscribers.