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FibreWire TV customers hit with local programming fee increase

Local Programming Fee: One Communications said the charge will be added to FibreWire TV customers’ monthly bills (Image supplied)

A monthly charge of $11.25 will be added to bills for One Communications’ television customers after a change in rates to air Bermuda channels, the company has said.

The “local programming fee” will apply to people with FibreWire TV packages.

A company spokeswoman explained that regulations governed the way island channels were retransmitted to viewers through cable television distributors.

The Bermuda Broadcasting Company highlighted later that “for years” it has tried to secure rates “that more closely reflect market value”.

The One Communications spokeswoman said: “Following months of protracted negotiations between One Communications and Bermuda Broadcasting Company, the Telecommunications Commission set new rates for the retransmission of Channels 7 ZFB and 9 ZBM.”

She added the commission’s decision was retroactive to November 1 last year.

The spokeswoman said the $11.25 charge would be applied to FibreWire TV customers from March 1 “to cover the increased fees and retroactive nature of the changes”.

The spokeswoman added that retransmission was supposed to be negotiated by the Bermuda Broadcasting Company and One Communications every three years.

But she said that an agreement was not reached between the parties by early October 2020 and the deal was due to expire at the end of that month.

The spokeswoman said: “Rather than allowing retransmission to expire on October 31, which would have resulted in a loss of the channels for One Communications' customers, the matter was referred to the Telecommunications Commission on October 9, 2020.”

Brian Lonergan, One Communications’ chief commercial officer added: “Over the last eight years, we have ensured that our TV customers were unaffected by increased programming costs charged by content providers.

“Given the magnitude of these new rate increases for retransmission of ZFB and ZBM, additional fees are no longer avoidable.

“We want to assure our customers that we did everything possible to minimise these rates and we will continue to negotiate against content rate increases in the future.

“In addition to providing popular ABC and CBS content, these channels provide viewers with important local news, special event coverage and sports programming.

“The new local programming fee ensures our customers have access to BBC’s channels for years to come.”

An e-mail from One Communications to customers pointed out that channels 7 and 9 were “required as part of our basic offering and cannot be removed from FibreWire TV packages”.

The Bermuda Broadcasting Company website said that the ZBM television channel was affiliated with the American CBS television network in 1960.

It added that ZFB was introduced in 1965 and became affiliated with ABC.

A Bermuda Broadcasting Company spokesman said that “the decision to increase retransmission rates was made by the independent Telecommunications Commission”.

He added: “The BBC has lobbied for years for rates that more closely reflect market value and international industry standards, in light of the ever-increasing costs of purchasing and producing TV content, including the nightly local news and exclusive network affiliate programmes.

“Over the last many years, the BBC has been unable to raise the rates for its channels.

“If OneComm now decides to raise their rates higher than what was determined by the Telecommunications Commission and pass costs directly on to their Bermuda customers, that is OneComm’s decision alone.

“It is notable that other local cable TV providers, who are paying similar rates to the BBC, have not raised their customer fees.”

The One Communications spokeswoman added later that the $11.25 charge was set to recoup "retroactive costs over time“.

A spokesman for the Telecommunications Commission said that a referral was made by One Communications last October for “determination of revised tariff rates” after the parties were unable to reach agreement on tariff rates.

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Published February 04, 2021 at 8:39 am (Updated February 04, 2021 at 8:39 am)

FibreWire TV customers hit with local programming fee increase

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