Market Watch

Lithuania Changes Channel Licensing Rules


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Lithuanian authorities are planning changes to 'must carry' obligations, as well as launching obligatory licensing on cable TV networks. Additionally, the authorities want to ban advertising of alcohol products.

According to the new regulations, coming into force on 1 July, only two channels, LTV and LTV2 (both public) will be offered by cable TV players under the 'must carry' rule. Until now 'must carry' regulation has applied to all the national channels. Due to the development of digital terrestrial, however, there are now more than ten such channels.

Lithuanian authorities also want pay TV operators to register their channels with the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTC). Channel line-ups will now be part of the licence given to the operator and every player will have two months to apply for registration of any new channel. No fee will be collected for registration.

Under the new regulations, internet-based VoD services will also have to register with the LRTC.

Analysis
The new media law introduced in neighbouring Latvia last year extended must carry from two channels - public LTV1 and LTV7 - to four with the addition of MTG-owned TV3 and LNT.  In Estonia, 'must carry' applies to all the free-to-air terrestrial channels: ETV and ETV2, as well as commercial Kanal2 and TV3. Two more channels, Kanal11 and MTG-owned TV6, both recently encrypted. 

There is another change to regulations under way in Estonia; the authorities are preparing a bill requiring all the cable TV networks to switch to digital (as has already happened in Finland). If the project prepared by the government is approved by the Parliament, all cable TV services in Estonia will be digital by the end of 2012.

In CEE countries probably the biggest change related to 'must carry' obligations will happen in Slovakia, where after analogue switch-off (scheduled for 2012) no 'must carry' regulations will apply. Currently, all the cable TV and IPTV players in the Slovak Republic have to offer as 'must carry' all the terrestrial channels (including local channels) which are available in the region where their network is located. However, the rule applies only to analogue terrestrial channels and only analogue cable TV networks.

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