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EBU calls for global broadcasting alliance to defend spectrum

The EBU seized the opportunity of a global summit in Seoul, South Korea, last week to call for unity among the world’s broadcasters to defend their precious terrestrial spectrum against continued assault from Telcos for mobile services.

This happened during meetings of both the WBU (World Broadcasting Unions) and the ABU (Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union) general assemblies, which were held at the same time and place. There was general agreement with the EBU position, extending beyond spectrum to a range of issues where broadcasters globally have similar priorities, against the backdrop of common technical developments and challenges in areas such as smart TV, hybrid TV, and the second screen.

There was also a growing consensus around the idea promoted recently by the DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) group, as well as the EBU, that the existing four main digital terrestrial variants should converge towards a common global standard in future.

But spectrum was the hottest issue. The EBU’s director of technology and innovation Lieven Vermaele called for joint action in defense of spectrum for broadcasting worldwide, and proposed that the DigiTAG organization might be an ideal forum for such cooperation. The issue of spectrum was also on the agenda of the WBU Technical Committee the previous day, when a recommendation on spectrum use was agreed.

The message was not lost on Asia Pacific Public Broadcasters, which decided to petition their governments to preserve radio spectrum for matters of 'public interest' when digital switchover takes place. Delegates attending this 49th General Assembly of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) in Seoul agreed space on the old analogue radio spectrum should not be sold for short term gain - it should be devoted to the public good.

The EBU has also been arguing that defending spectrum will achieve little unless accompanied by firm commitment from governments of continuing support for public service broadcasting at this time of global uncertainty over its future, especially in counties where public sector budgets are being squeezed. The EBU has warned that if broadcasters’ entire income is linked to the markets, then they are exposed to market fluctuations or failure. Broadcasters must be able to honor their remits while adapting to new consumer demands and technology. If they are to provide high quality and relevant content to the broadest possible audience, then specific, sustainable funding is paramount.

What matters, according to the EBU, is not the funding model, but the amount of money on the table, and its long term sustainability. Revenues must be sufficient, long-term guaranteed and shielded from the vagaries of national politics, the EBU insisted.