European Broadcast Union calls for harmonized Internet TV standards

The European Broadcast Union (EBU) has called for harmonization across the continent, and preferably the world, of standards for TV services that include Internet connectivity either on its own or in a hybrid setup alongside traditional broadcast over cable, satellite or digital terrestrial. This should be done quickly before the field takes off too far with fragmented standards that divide the industry, impose unnecessarily high costs on both vendors and operators, and prevent consumers from having unfettered access to diverse services.

The move is significant at a time when Europe itself is moving on divergent paths. The UK is lining up behind the YouView platform for Internet-connected TV backed by the BBC and telecommunications operator BT, among others, while most remaining countries speraheaded by Germany and France are behind the alternative HbbTV standard. The EBU declaration could be seen as veiled criticism of the UK stance and a call for YouView to move toward HbbTV.

But, the call made by the EBU’s director general, Ingrid Deltenre, goes much further by urging the industry to adopt 19 principles for Internet-connected and hybrid TV designed to lower costs while maximizing choice and viewing experience for consumers. The EBU called on all stakeholders to support and respect the principles.

The principles fall under six headings: linkage between broadcast and broadband; content integrity and display of the broadcast signal on-screen; access to broadcasters' content; preservation of a safe viewing environment, including the protection of minors; copyright/intellectual property rights and piracy; and data protection.

Some of the areas are more urgent than others, notably data protection because that has to be addressed early on in the deployment to be effective in ensuring services comply with national, EU and international rules on collection, processing and use of personal data, including any viewing, usage, or search data and user profiling.

On the other hand, data protection, along with some of the other areas such as protection of minors, are general requirements of all TV services. Therefore, the key areas address the linkage between broadcast and broadband services.