Cyprus Mail

Short-term, last-minute reprieve for TV stations in fee battle

By Angelos Anastasiou

A LAST-ditch effort by the government saved Capital, Extra, and Mad television channels from being taken off the air on Wednesday, after earlier warnings by privately-owned digital platform Velister, which has been carrying their signal, that it would cut them if they failed to pay their annual dues.

According to a story ran in Wednesday’s Phileleftheros, the channels were slated for axing if they refused to cough up the annual fees of €181,900 requested by Velister, a source told the Cyprus Mail.

The fees Velister charged television stations this year spiked relative to previous years because of the collapse of Lumiere TV which maintained, and paid for, a handful of channels last year.

A private company owned by various local TV stations, Velister is a platform carrying digital signals for licensed television channels at an annual fee.

However, according to head of the Cyprus Radiotelevision Authority (CRTA) Andreas Petrides, the annual rate is set not by Velister but by the Telecommunications Commissioner’s office.

“In any case, there is an ongoing mediation process between the two sides,” Petrides said.

“As long as this process continues in search of a compromise, I don’t think any drastic measures will be taken.”

The mediation was a government-initiated effort, and resulted in a temporary compromise on Wednesday.

“We renewed our agreement with Velister for one month,” said Capital’s head Achilleas Demetriou.

“We accepted the fee increase for one month, which gives the government time to work out a solution, but we will not accept the increase after the month is over.”

In addition to the Velister annual fee, TV stations must pay the CRTA a €51,000 annual broadcasting licence. Broadcasting licences, Petrides told the Cyprus Mail, were approved on Tuesday.

Ioannis Vasiliades, senior official for financial affairs at the Telecommunications’ Commission, said that Velister submits its budget figures and proposes a fee for channels every year, which the commission then reviews and sets a fee cap – this year it was set at €181,900 per channel. Velister may opt for a lower fee, but cannot exceed the cap.

“The commission’s decision is followed by a public consultation, during which the channels have a chance to state their objections,” Vasiliades said.

“We then review the arguments and issue a final ruling on the fee cap. The ruling for this year will be published on Friday, and none of the channels challenged our decision during the public consultation phase.”

According to the financial official, should Velister stop carrying the three rogue channels’ signal, they have the option of signing on to a subscription-based platform.

“They can have their channels carried on any of the subscriber platforms at substantially lower cost – if not for free,” he said.

“But obviously, this would affect their reach.”

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