TALLINN - A major Russian language television channel, First Baltic Channel (FBC), was removed from the channel lists of two of the largest cable television operators in Estonia.
On Jan. 12, Starman and STV stopped transmission of the FBC without advance notice to their customers, cutting some 250,000 people off from the channels and sparking a wave of complaints from the Russian speaking community.
Both companies announced that the reason for the cancellation was an increase in transmission prices.
"In today's economic situation, such a large price increase is absolutely ungrounded, because this money can come only from the viewers' pockets. Due to this, we were forced to replace FBC in the Starman portfolio," said Starman Development Director Indrek Ild.
Ild also said that Starman could not come to an agreement with The Baltic Union of Authors and Transmitters (BUAT), which increased the price this year by about 300 percent.
Three other major operators in Estonia 's Viasat, Elion and Telset 's have accepted the conditions of the BUAT and their clients have no problems with receiving this channel.
FBC is the most popular channel among the Russian speaking part of the population and belongs to the portfolio of Baltic media Alliance (BMA).
Both companies had the right to continue the transmission until Jan. 18, yet both chose to cut the channels off almost a week in advance.
The Consumer Protection Department had announced that the actions violate the companies' obligations to their clients. Companies are obliged to inform their customers at least 30 days in advance.
The actions that the Consumer Protection Bureau will take against Starman and STV will depend upon the outcome of negotiations with BMA, which are ongoing. However, both companies will receive a letter with a demand to immediately continue transmission of FBC, the bureau said.
BUAT Chairman of the Board Ljubov Domanina told journalists that the company is open for negotiations. Domanina had underlined that the price increase is only 0.05 euro cents per each user.
"It is clear that we are dealing with two big companies in cooperation that have divided the market and are applying monopolistic politics," said Domanina.