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Ukraine waters down must-carry rule

The Ukrainian government will no longer require cable operators to carry all digital terrestrial channels in their program packages after a strong backlash from the industry.

The Ukrainian National Council on Television and Radio announced the controversial rule in July, stating then it would oblige cable operators to carry a “benefits” package comprising all 32 channels licensed for digital broadcasting.

This would have hit analog cable operators particularly hard, since they only have capacity for around 50 channels and would then have to provide over half of them free of charge. The point here is that channels distributed in Ukraine have to pay for their carriage on cable networks, unlike the U.S. and other major European countries, with the exception of Germany. These cable operators would have been unable to make up the potential revenue shortfall by imposing higher fees on the paid channels.

But now, the rule, which will be in force until 2015, has been watered down with cable operators only being required to provide free carriage for local digital channels broadcast in their area. The Ukrainian National Council on Television and Radio took account here of the growing competition cable operators face from digital terrestrial services offered by operator Zeonbud, which currently has 28 channels across four multiplexes.