Universal Music Germany and music TV channel Viva are downplaying reports in the German press that they forged a secret agreement in which the network would receive payments to air videos by the major

Universal Music Germany and music TV channel Viva are downplaying reports in the German press that they forged a secret agreement in which the network would receive payments to air videos by the major's artists.

According to a report in news magazine Der Spiegel, Universal signed a secret agreement to secure up to 50 slots on Viva's video rotation list for new acts for a one-year period. In return, Universal was said to have guaranteed 18,000 euros ($21,800) worth of advertising on Viva for each video picked for rotation. Universal would also reportedly offer Viva more than 20 euro cents (24 cents) per unit from sales of CDs by the artists involved.

Universal denies the existence of any "secret arrangements," saying in a statement that talks with Viva involved "advance programming selection for the benefit of both sides."

Universal Germany chairman/CEO Tim Renner confirms that the companies had been looking to "develop a model" that would allow Viva to hear music by new artists and then decide whether it would air their videos. Renner says this would have led to substantial savings for Universal, because the company would likely not produce videos for acts not picked by Viva.

"Viva was to retain its editorial independence," says Renner. "The only change was to be the basis on which these decisions are made." He adds that the local industry had been informed of the proposal at a board meeting of labels body BPW.

A Viva spokeswoman says, "No final agreement was entered into either with Universal or on an association level, as the programming staff ultimately rejected the idea."

Sony Music Germany CEO Balthasar Schramm says such an arrangement would have amounted to an "overt form of unfair competition." Viva selects only six to eight new videos for rotation each week out of 60-80 candidates, so such an agreement would have given Universal a competitive edge, according to Schramm.