Update: UFC Banned from German TV

By Tim Leidecker Mar 19, 2010
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been banned from German television. The Bavarian state office for new media (BLM) revoked the promotion’s broadcast clearance on Thursday for programming including “The Ultimate Fighter,” “UFC Unleashed” and “UFC Fight Night,” which had been televised on German sports television channel DSF since March 2009.

“The committee deems that television formats characterized by the extend of violence shown to be unacceptable,“ read a statement from the BLM. The BLM also described the programming as a “breach of taboos like punching a downed opponent,” which is illegal under article 111a of the Bavarian constitution. The paragraph deals with the glorification of violence in the media.

The BLM decision did not state an exact date when the UFC programming would no longer be allowed to air.

DSF Chief Executive Officer Zeljko Karajica was unable to assess the full consequences the decision will have for the sports channel.

“We have taken note of today’s decision by the BLM,” Karajica told Sherdog.com. “However, we cannot give a final comment as we have to examine what kind of consequences it will have internally, especially with regard to the existing contractual relationship with the UFC.”

The UFC and DSF reached an agreement in February 2009 to air around 500 hours of UFC programming over the next three years. The network has aired the promotion’s pay-per-view events starting with UFC 96, mostly on a one-week delay. While the ratings have been solid for the nightly broadcasts, the channel has complained about a lack of advertising customers interested in the product.

Thursday’s ban is not going to be in immediate effect, as the channel plans to run a delayed broadcast of “UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones” on Monday.

Marshall Zelaznik, UFC UK president and managing director of international development, took the same line as Karajica in a press release issued on Friday.

“We have been monitoring this development together with our partner DSF for a couple of weeks,” said the release. “Although we are not surprised by the decision, we consider it unusual to take action without listening to the concerning parties first.”

Zelaznik additionally stated that they are in the process of arranging a hearing with the BLM.

“The Bavarian state office for new media has approved UFC programming on DSF twice on separate occasions in the past,” said Zelaznik. “That is why we deem the sudden ban unusual as the content of our programming has not changed. We have also had a commission for youth protection in the media review the situation and they deemed the broadcast legal if televised after 11 p.m.”

The UFC UK president also rejected the accusations that the company was glorifying violence, especially by the fact that it is legal to punch a downed opponent. He requested the commission to “look at the sport as a whole” and criticized the decision-makers for “not taking the time to learn about the sport before rendering a decision.”

During additional correspondence with Sherdog.com on Friday, Zelaznik said the UFC is "still allowed to air on DSF and in fact is continuing to air until a final decision from BLM is rendered."

A silver lining on the horizon for the promotion, which has been under heavy fire from both media and politicians, is a pledge of allegiance from local co-promoter and concert mogul Marek Lieberberg, who helped host the U.S.-based organization’s debut event, UFC 99, in Cologne last June. The BLM’s decision “will not change a thing about our excellent cooperation with the UFC,” the 63-year-old wrote to Sherdog.com in an e-mail.

UFC 99, which included a 195-pound catch-weight bout between Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin, was heavily criticized by local officials and the press. To quell disapproval, the promotion said that the venue agreed to a stipulation where patrons had to be over 18 years of age to attend the event.

Update: This article was updated with additional comments from Zelaznik at 6:55 p.m. ET. Zelaznik also clarified that the 18-and-over UFC 99 attendance stipulation was added by the venue and imposed on the promotion.
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