French regulator orders TDF to allow competitors to broadcast from Eiffel Tower
Saturday, July 14th, 2007

France’s Conseil de la Concurrence, an independent administrative authority specialising in the repression of anticompetitive practices, has ordered TDF to propose to towerCast a new wholesale hosting offer for broadcasting FM from the Eiffel Tower site in order to allow towerCast to effectively compete with TDF.

The decision follows a complaint by towerCast, a terrestrial broadcasting service provider 99.9% owned by the NRJ group, about practices implemented by TDF. TowerCast’s complaint alleged delaying tactics implemented by TDF during the bid process launched by the City of Paris for the renewal of the national occupancy contract of the Eiffel Tower terrestrial broadcasting site.

TowerCast alleged that TDF had belatedly issued an estimate of the equipment transfer value that was necessary to participate in the bid. TowerCast also alleged that TDF had then sent an overestimated valuation, thus preventing towerCast from presenting a competitive offer for the occupancy of the Eiffel Tower broadcasting site.

The Conseil emphasized that towerCast is TDF’s sole competitor in the market for FM radio terrestrial broadcasting. Its access to the Eiffel Tower for broadcasting is especially important, notably as a result of technical constraints in the Ile-de-France region. Among the major radio and TV broadcasting sites, the Eiffel Tower site stands out for its specially broad coverage due to its height. It can cover 11 million inhabitants in the Ile-de-France region, 18% of the metropolitan population.

The Conseil de la Concurrence judged that the margin squeeze practice, which was likely to constitute an abuse of dominant position by TDF, constituted an immediate and serious impact on the opening of the sector to competition, on the eve of the issuing by the CSA (French Broadcasting Council) of new authorizations for the use of frequencies by private radio stations. Therefore the Conseil has adopted interim measures.

The Conseil de la Concurrence has ordered TDF to :

issue a wholesale hosting offer for FM radio broadcasting from the Eiffel Tower site within one month, enabling alternative distributors to effectively compete with the retail offers made by TDF to radio stations, without supporting any margin squeeze effect
limit to one year the duration of the contract, which the company is about to sign with private FM radio stations for the broadcasting of their programmes from the Eiffel tower site.
On this last point, the Conseil specifies that in the case where some contracts have already been signed, TDF will have to propose the radio stations concerned to sign a new contract for one year, thus invalidating the one previously signed.

(Source: Conseil de la Concurrence)