Colombias CNTV Sets Cable-Licensing Rules


Bogotá, Colombia -- Colombia's nine legal
cable-license holders will have to participate in an auction for the country's newly
created regional cable concessions, the country's National Television Commission
(CNTV) ruled.

The decision has finally opened the gates to a
cable-licensing process that, after countless delays, began July 3. Prospective
license-holders have until July 23 to submit their business proposals.

CNTV will review the plans and grant nonexclusive licenses
on a points-based system. Factors such as financial strength and media-industry experience
will determine the winners.

Current legislation calls for licenses covering three
regions of the country and local franchises for 1,100 municipalities. Since the licenses
are nonexclusive, overbuild situations could occur.

CNTV is charging bidders a fixed price for the licenses.
The license for Bogotá -- the capital, and the country's most populous city, with
about 6.5 million residents -- could fetch up to $800,000, while licenses for small towns
could go for as little as $20. The CNTV has committed itself to naming license-winners
three to four months after proposals are submitted.

One of the CNTV's major challenges is to formalize a
huge illegal-cable-operator community, which developed during a time when Colombian pay TV
legislation was sketchy. Most of the country's 1,000-plus unlicensed cable systems
opposed the lobbying efforts of legitimate operators to obtain regional licenses without
bidding -- an issue that, until now, had helped to stall the entire process.