The Colombian TV regulator suspended the process of awarding a license to operate a third open television channel, after the inspector general questioned aspects of the procedure.
Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez said the minimum price set for the auction, which is kept secret, is too low. Ordoñez also questioned some technical aspects of the process and criticized the fact that only one of the three qualified bidders said it would actually bid, Juan Andres Carreno, the head of the TV regulator, said in a press conference Friday.
Carreno said he disagrees with Ordoñez but will abide by his recommendations.
The auction was scheduled for next week. The process has suffered a series of delays since it began in early 2008.
Carreno said he will meet with the board members of CNTV, as the regulator is known, to analyze how and when the process will resume.
“I don’t want to commit to a date,” Carreno said.
He said it was likely that the process will resume in October and that only the three qualified bidders will be allowed to participate in the final auction.
The bidders are: a group led by Spain’s privately held Grupo Planeta, Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros, and Spanish media group Promotora de Informaciones SA, or Prisa. All of them had to team up with local investors, since foreigners are barred from owning more than a 40% stake in a Colombian TV station.
Cisneros and Prisa have announced that they won’t bid, as they disagree with certain aspects of the process, Carreno said.
Planeta’s legal representative Francisco Sole said he doesn’t understand why the process has been delayed again, but that his company will still be interested when the auction is finally held.
He said the group expects to spend US$300 million on the TV channel, including the license fee, the investment in infrastructure and losses during the early years before the company breaks even.
The Colombian government wants to award a license to operate a third open television channel to compete with Caracol Television SA, which is controlled by Colombia’s wealthiest man, Julio Mario Santo Domingo, and RCN Television SA, owned by soft-drink tycoon Carlos Ardila. (Inti Landauro / Dow Jones)