RTL Boss Blasts Liberty’s German Cable Deal

23 January 2002

In a clear message to regulators, Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive of German broadcast giant RTL Group, has blasted Liberty Media’s attempted E5.5 billion purchase of Deutsche Telekom’s cable-TV network, saying it breaks competition law.

US group Liberty agreed to buy the network last year [WAMN: 10-Sep-01], since when RTL has been a vocal opponent, raising concerns about the American firm’s ownership of distribution and content [WAMN: 22-Nov-01].

The deal is currently under intense scrutiny by the Cartel Office, whose verdict is due next month. Zeiler’s comments, therefore, come at a particularly sensitive time.

“We consider Liberty's business model to be in violation of antitrust law,” the RTL boss told Handelsblatt, adding that Liberty is interested “not only in gaining control of Germany's cable-TV infrastructure, but in gaining control of its broadcasters as well.”

Such foreign involvement, fumed Zeiler, was not necessary to boost competition in Germany – rather, Liberty is seeking “a unique monopoly” in the media market through its interest in content.

Some cynical souls might assume that Zeiler is worried about a new threat to RTL’s position. However, he insisted that Liberty’s chances of success in Germany are slight anyway, as survival will require a lot of money – “Commercial channels invest around E2 billion a year in productions. To enter the market from scratch and be successful is difficult,” he stressed.

News source: Handelsblatt (Germany)