Norkring Moving Out Too

After MTG subsidiary Prva TV announced the closure of TV3, the third biggest commercial TV channel in Slovenia, Norkring has lost the last TV channel broadcasting via its B multiplex network.

The other Slovenian stations are hosted by the public network, multiplex A, which is managed by the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

"The bottom line is: we have not achieved our goal, that is to secure the company's healthy operation," Torbjorn Odegard Teigen, CEO of Norkring, stated in a press release.

The executive director of the Slovenia subsidiary, Roman Šmidovnik, regretted that another foreign investor was withdrawing from Slovenia, but would not disclose any details as these would be presented by the owners.

Norkring will begin dismantling its network at the beginning of next month, the statement from the company reads.

The announcement has sparked off speculation that this may be an opportunity for the US-owned production house Pro Plus, which runs the POP TV and Kanal A stations in Slovenia, to buy Norkring's infrastructure to transfer its channels to multiplex B.

But Pro Plus said in a statement today it was not interested in managing multiplex B, adding that it would however examine the terms and conditions if a public call for bids for the multiplex is published in the future.

Norkring set up a subsidiary in Slovenia after being selected the best bidder to operate the commercial multiplex in an international tender of the Agency for Postal and Electronic Communications (APEK) in December 2008, winning a ten-year concession to operate the commercial multiplex.

APEK regretted Norkring's decision, which it said showed that Slovenian market was not sufficiently developed to guarantee enough content to fill up two multiplexes with a capacity to transmit 16 to 18 programmes.

The regulator expects that Norkring's decision will reduce the capacity of the entire infrastructure, noting that terrestrial digital television is important in that it enables viewers in parts with no other infrastructure to watch several programmes.

Slovenia switched fully from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting in December 2010 based on DVB-T technology.

The first DVB-T multiplex, operated by RTV Slovenija, hosts three of its channels (TVS 1, TVS 2, TVS 3), as well as commercial POP TV, Kanal A, Pink Si at the national level and a few more at the regional level.

Meanwhile, Norkring has been unable to attract commercial programmes. Last year Pink Si switched to multiplex A, whereas TV3 announced its imminent shutdown based on a decision by its Swedish owner.

Norkring has made a criminal report and a complaint to the Corruption Prevention Commission against RTV Slovenija arguing that the public broadcaster violates regulatory decisions by hosting commercial stations.

Before the launch of Norkring's network and the full switch to DVB-T, RTV Slovenija was allowed in 2010 to temporarily host commercial channels on its national multiplex A.

But according to Norkring the state is now unwilling to align this transitional solution to the EU law which stipulates that the national multiplex is intended for national and not commercial broadcasting.

The public broadcaster responded to the charge by stating that broadcasters could choose between two operators, RTV Slovenija and Norkring.

RTV Slovenija also rejected Norkring's allegation that it subsidized commercial programmes, arguing it was obligated to charge broadcasting in the DVB-T network under the relevant APEK decision.

According to RTV Slovenija, the problem is the small size of the Slovenian market, as the number of programmes capable of meeting the multiplex costs is insufficient to support even a single multiplex network.

The Consumer Association (ZPS) meanwhile called on the stakeholders to diversify terrestrially-broadcast programmes, saying that the withdrawal of Norkring would significantly reduce room for new channels.

The association had expected more from RTV Slovenija, "as it would be completely logical to use the space on its multiplex for special documentary, sport and cultural channels".

Marjan Hribar of the Directorate for Tourism and Internationalisation at the Economy Ministry said that the ministry was aware of the obstacles in the Slovenian business environment and that it was trying to eliminate them.

Marjan Turk of the Information Society Directorate regretted the announced withdrawal of Norkring, saying that it would certainly had a negative impact on Slovenia's international reputation.