EBU gives cautious welcome to European Commission Green Paper on broadcasting

The European Commission and EBU have not seen eye-to-eye over broadcasting policy, but have attempted to put on a united front over media convergence with the Internet.

The Commission has just broadcast “Preparing for a Fully Converged Audio-visual World: Growth, Creation and Values," a Green Paper on the regulatory implications of the on-going convergence of the audio-visual media landscape. The paper invites stakeholders and the wider public, to share their views between now and the end of August 2013, on issues ranging from competition among audio-visual media service providers, to the development of new business models, interoperability of devices and the protection of minors.

The EBU has given the paper a cautious welcome, with Director General Ingrid Deltenre agreeing that the advent of connected TV and second-screen applications offers great opportunities for European broadcasters and content providers.

“Empowering audiences to fully harness technical progress and convergence in the media sector is of fundamental importance for public service media (PSM),” said Deltenre. “People must be able to find and enjoy high quality content, whether online or broadcast, via a connected TV device or second screen. We see audio-visual media convergence as an additional means of strengthening the bond between PSM and audiences.”

Deltenre avoided reiterating the EBU’s concerns over the future of spectrum for digital terrestrial spectrum in Europe, which has been a bone of contention. The Commission has favored giving more spectrum over to emerging 4G/LTE mobile services, which it considers are better placed to meet future commitments for universal availability of broadband and media services.

Eyebrows were raised by the publication of this Green Paper before the Commission had revealed the findings of an earlier similar process inviting the public for comments. The Commission has not stated why it appears to have brought forward publication of the Green Paper but it may be because it sees that the pace of deployment of connected and hybrid TV services in Europe has accelerated and public awareness has grown to the point at which the original consultation is already redundant.

However, the EBU is calling on the Commission to ensure that any future regulations based on this consultation or otherwise should adhere to its "Principles on Internet Connected and Hybrid Television in Europe", which were adopted in April 2011 following discussions with broadcasters worldwide. The main message there was that future hybrid services should be fully integrated and not simply involve putting a TV receiver and Internet browser in the same device. This would fail to take advantage of potential for new services through properly harmonized Internet and broadcast transmission.

This has led to suggestions that services can be harmonized at the transmission level as well, with convergence between digital terrestrial and mobile services. This though raises the more difficult question of whether broadcasters and mobile operators can agree over who runs these services.