Banks help pay for East Europe’s digitization

East Europe’s public service broadcasters have won support from two of the continent’s leading investment banks for digitization of their terrestrial services.

The news came at a conference in Vienna organized by the EBU, where representatives from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) confirmed their readiness to help the broadcasters accelerate their digitization to obtain the economic benefits that would bring.

Laura Campbell, from the EBRD’s Department of Industry Commerce and Agribusiness, told attendees at the conference (called Financing digitalization in Eastern Europe: the challenge for public service broadcasters) that digitization could create new revenues streams. She said EBRD financing was available for digitization operations that ensured the preservation of existing cultural heritage.

“Broadcasters need digital infrastructure, including network and digitization equipment, to respond to technological changes and ensure preservation of existing cultural heritage,” said Campbell. “EBRD financing is available for bankable operations that are consistent with that mandate.”

According to Campbell, digitization could help enable new revenue streams through fees for digital library use, creation of cinema pre-shows with advertising, branded entertainment, local content, provision of the digital infrastructure for non-public purposes, and fees from distribution to cable channels for expatriate viewing.

The clear message from the two banks was that the region’s public broadcasters need to go digital, and that funds are available to help those that have not done so speed up the process. This view was supported by EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre, who argued that broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe also stood to benefit enormously from digitized production workflows.

Philip Laven, the former EBU Technical Director and current chairman of the DVB Project, told the conference that digital broadcasting is better and cheaper than analog, but that the transition is lengthy and expensive, so support from the banks would be welcome.

Other speakers included former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek, State Secretary Josef Ostermayer, Montenegrin deputy Prime Minister Vujica Lazovic, ORF director general and EBU Executive Board member Alexander Wrabetz, Secretary General of the Sarajevo-based Regional Cooperation Council Hido Biscevic, and Andris Kesteris of the European Commission’s DG Enlargement.

A number of EBU Members in Central and Eastern Europe are chronically underfunded and require financial assistance to switch to digital transmission and production, and to digitize their audiovisual archives. The EBU has pledged logistical support, and has also been vocal in speaking up for broadcasters both in their defense of spectrum, and their campaigns to ensure sustainable funding from their own national governments.