The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said it has launched a formal investigation into Kbro Co’s plan to remove two Formosa TV (FTV) channels from the lineups of 19 cable systems, adding that it would not allow unspoken rules between cable operators to disrupt fair competition.
The two channels, FTV Taiwan and Follow Me TV, are digital channels that can be watched by cable TV subscribers for free, the commission said.
Kbro, an affiliate of the Fubon Group, which owns Taiwan Mobile, earlier this month announced that it would remove the two channels from its channel lineup.
FTV News at the beginning of this month began broadcasting on Chunghwa Telecom’s multimedia-on-demand (MOD) service, commission data showed.
Industry experts have interpreted Kbro’s move as retaliation against FTV for airing its programming on the platforms of Kbro and Chunghwa Telecom, despite being fully aware that the two are in the middle of fierce competition with each other.
NCC spokesman Weng Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said that by law, cable system operators are required to notify the commission if they need to make adjustments to digital channels offered to cable TV subscribers for free, adding that the agency keeps such notifications for its records.
“However, Kbro announcing a plan to remove two FTV channels soon after FTV launched its news channel on the MOD system is an almost perfect coincidence,” Weng said.
The commission found that records of negotiations between Kbro and FTV over the two channels were incomplete, as they lacked a signature from FTV providing its agreement to the terms of the talks, he said, adding that the agency launched the investigation to determine whether either party had engaged in acts that would impede fair competition and disrupt the market.
“We will not tolerate the practice of unspoken rules among market players that would hurt the interests of consumers,” Weng said, adding that the commission would handle the case based on the media laws it is charged with enforcing.
He reiterated that the nation early this year began to enforce amendments to three media laws, which list MOD and cable systems as broadcasting platforms, saying that their operators must ensure that all channels have equal access to their platforms and that they are forbidden from boycotting a channel for broadcasting content on competing platforms.
“Following the investigation, we will also examine the conditional clauses attached to a ruling on Dafu Media’s acquisition of Kbro, in which Dafu Media vowed to strictly adhere to the principle of equal access for all channels,” Weng said.
Dafu Media is the firm created by Fubon Group to acquire Kbro.
The commission said that Kbro has not taken the two channels off the air, adding that Kbro and FTV have been asked to submit written statements about the dispute.
Weng also commented on Kbro’s announcement last week that it would cease operating as an agent of different channels, considering that being an agent allows it to negotiate on content authorization fees with other cable system owners on behalf of the TV channels.
“We will monitor whether multiple system operators such as Kbro have forced channels to accept unreasonable content authorization fees and unfair distribution of profits,” he said.
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