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Access to TV platforms: EAO report for the European Commission

posted on 27 May, 2016   (public)

Access to TV platforms: EAO report for the European Commission

In April 2016, the European Audiovisual Observatory published a report based on its work carried out in 2015  for the DG COMM of the European Commission, which looks at the way in which national systems prioritise the delivery of certain types of television content over distribution platforms. The context of the study was to examine a set of issues related to the questions of access to content for the public. The territorial scope of the report includes the 28 Member States of the European Union and six additional countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Norway, the Republic of Serbia and Switzerland.

The aim of the study was to provide an overview of must-carry rules for television in Europe and to examine whether must-carry rules applied to digital terrestrial television (DTT) platforms. Hence, alongside the information on must-carry regimes, a brief overview on the licensing regime for DTT platforms, in particular the free-DTT platforms (as pay DTT can be considered as similar to any other pay package such as those provided by cable, satellite, IPTV etc.) is also presented. This is done from two perspectives:

  • The report first focusses on national must-carry rules in the context of European Union law. The Universal Services Directive requires that such obligations should be applied only to “networks that have a significant number of end users using the service as their main means of accessing television broadcasts. Such obligations shall only be imposed where they are necessary to meet clearly defined general interest objectives and shall be proportionate and transparent.” (Article 31). Although the research was not intended to provide an overview of the implementation of Article 31, it does refer to the relevant legislation as was either provided by the regulators or identified during the research as being relevant to the must-carry rules.
  • The second aspect of the analysis is looking at the state of play of DTT platforms, their licensing, the services on free DTT and the presence of, or potential access for, foreign channels. It should be noted that the extent to which digital terrestrial television is a significant means of delivery of television services varies widely between countries. The free DTT platform is very important in three of the largest European countries: the UK, Italy and Spain, plays an important role in France, and is of much less significance in Germany. In comparison, 10% or less of the population rely on DTT for access to television services in Switzerland, the Slovak Republic, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
With regard to the process of elaborating this study, a brief questionnaire on these issues was sent to the 52 broadcasting regulatory authorities members of EPRA from 46 countries in and beyond Europe in 2015. Replies were received from 26 regulatory authorities, 21 of which were from EU countries and six from other countries. Additional in-house research was carried out on the other 7 EU countries. Most of the data collection for this report was completed between April and December 2015. Recent changes (to April 2016) have been added under the section “Recent legal developments”, based mainly on news in the IRIS Merlin database. Changes to the status of DTT implementation have been added (based on end of 2015 data from MAVISE and the Yearbook of the European Audiovisual Observatory).

Source: EPRA Secretariat