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German Soccer to Receive Fees for Radio Broadcasts

DW staff (aal)November 9, 2005

German soccer clubs will be able to demand fees from radio broadcasters reporting live matches from their stadiums following a court ruling on Tuesday.

German soccer teams 1, radio broadcasters 0Image: dpa

A German federal court ruled on Tuesday that national radio stations will be required to pay a fee to broadcast Bundesliga games live and in full-length. The court similarly rejected an appeal from privately owned Radio Hamburg who was challenging the German Soccer League's (DFL) right to levee fee's for the right to broadcast live match reports.

The ruling stipulated that clubs were justified in charging broadcast fees for league matches when these were played in stadiums belonging to the clubs. The German Soccer League controls 36 first and second-division Bundesliga teams.

Broadcast rights vs. freedom of the press

The court battle followed a demand for payment for coverage of games at stadiums belonging to the Bundesliga club Hamburg SV and St. Pauli, a regional division team with a large cult following.

Radio Hamburg Logo
No joy for Radio Hamburg

The demand had already been rejected by two lower courts in Hamburg. Furthermore, the union of private radio broadcasters (VPRT), which had backed the challenge by Radio Hamburg, said the new ruling would threaten free reporting and said they did not rule out an appeal to Germany's top court, the Federal Constitutional Court.

"We consider the decision by the federal court is a threat to free reporting on sport," said union representatives in a statement."Broadcasting freedom has been subordinated to the interests of the clubs," said the VPRT, and warned that similar issues may arise for text reporters and photographers.

The DFL is currently auctioning broadcast rights to matches in the first and second divisions of the Bundesliga for the next three seasons.

Hamburg to appeal yet again

Radio Hamburg said it plans to appeal to the country's highest court. The union of private radio broadcasters called the ruling a blow to the freedom of the press.

The federal court compared radio broadcasters to television rights holders, who pay for live games.

No Consequences for ARD listeners

The German public broadcaster ARD reacted to the courts decision with acceptance. "When the federal court upholds the teams right to ownership of broadcast rights, and their right to receive payment for such rights, then one has to accept this fact", says ARD representative Rudi Kuffner in Munich.

Nothing will change however for ARD listeners after the courts ruling. The public broadcaster has secured stadium broadcast rights through legally binding long-term contracts and agreements.