21st EPRA meeting in Sarajevo: EPRA celebrates its 10th anniversary

posted on 15 May, 2005   (public)

The European Platform of Regulatory Authorities celebrated its 10th anniversary at the 21st meeting held in Sarajevo from the 12th to 13th of May 2005. The largest meeting to date involved over 130 participants from 39 countries and was hosted by the Communication Regulatory Agency (CRA) of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Forty-five regulatory authorities were represented and were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission. Representatives from the authorities of Jordan and Mongolia also attended as guests and were accompanied by delegates from the Open Society Institute.   

The opening plenary session was dedicated to celebrating the 10th anniversary and addressed past regulatory challenges looking back at EPRA's development over the years, with presentations from several founders of the EPRA: Joseph Pirotta from Malta, Jürgen Brautmeier from Germany and Greger Lindberg of Sweden.

The second part of the session focused on current and future regulatory challenges of the EPRA with perspectives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Norway and Spain. General issues addressed included the importance of the EPRA in supporting the development of media authorities through exchange of information and experience, particularly for those working in the new democratic states. More specific issues included the challenges presented by convergence, the issue of real regulatory powers for media authorities and their recognition through legislation the future of co-, self- and traditional regulation, the growing commercial pressure on children in the case of Norway and the plans for the development of a national independent regulatory authority in Spain.                                                  

Working Group 1 addressed the regulation of public service broadcasting.  The opening presentation was based on an analysis of Public Service Governance, specifically concerning how politicians best ensure the demanded public service programming without compromising editorial independence, being carried out by the Danish Radio and Television Board. The presentation provided a comparative overview of systems in European countries regarding the appointment, composition, powers, independence and the role in management of PSB Boards of Governors, and looked at different models from autonomous to service contract. A case study presentation from Estonia outlined the development of the new regulatory act to establish the new Estonian National Broadcasting organisation. It is planned to have a service contract between the broadcasting organisation and the state which will be carried out according to performance indicators. These indicators were explained as being more value based than the traditional obligation to inform, educate and entertain. The aim of all stakeholders is to create a system of Accountability in exchange for Stability. The third presentation dealt with the Public Service Review in the United Kingdom presented by Ofcom. The review set out to assess current PSB services in the entire system and to ensure their maintenance and strength, and concluded with a system outlining the areas of focus in PSB services for each provider, with a focus on characteristics rather than programme genres.                                               

The second working group dealt with Broadcasting on New Media Platforms. The first presentation from the AGCOM in Italy addressed the structure of the digital television market highlighting competitive concerns such as the different levels of vertical integration and also the existence of players with Significant Market Power (SMP) in terms of acquisition of programme rights. The Italian regulatory approach with regard to premium content, thematic channels and free-to-air mainstream channels was outlined, with an overview of some of the regulatory challenges still to be addressed the main one being to provide a level-playing field for platform competition. A perspective from France was presented by the CSA, which outlined the take-up of DTT and the growing use of TV over ADSL, which have stimulated the growth of the multi-channel market in France. Issues of concern included questions of access to platforms for consumers (risk of digital fracture) access to content particularly for the Internet platforms and issues of regulation of mixed services combining broadcast and on-demand offers. The third presentation from the CMT outlined the situation in Spain. At present the two main issues are how to promote DTT after its failure a few years ago and which kind of regulatory framework and regulator would be best to regulate emerging offers from telecom operators bundling services such as broadband, TV over Internet, Voice over IP and new services such as video games.                                                 

On the second day, representatives from the European Commission and the Council of Europe reported on their recent activities. This was followed by a plenary session on the Control of Programmes inciting to Hatred which provided a follow up to the work done at the Istanbul meeting, and consisted of a survey of EPRA members regarding case studies in this area, carried out by the French CSA.        

The issue of the future location of the EPRA Secretariat was also on the agenda and the findings and recommendations of the EPRA assessment Board were presented, based on the tenders of four European organisations offering to host the EPRA. The members discussed the future of the Secretariat and agreed to a relocation at the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg from 2006.  

Last but not least, elections were held and the new Executive Board of the EPRA was appointed. Joan Botella, Member of the Catalan Audiovisual Council (CAC) was elected Chairman for a period of two years. Two new members joined the Executive Board which is now composed of Izabella Chruslinska, Director of the Department of European Integration and International Relations of the Polish KRRiT, Dunja Mijatovic, Director of Broadcasting Division of the CRA from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cecilia Renfors, Director of the Swedish Broadcasting Commission and Gernot Schumann, the European Affairs Commissioner of the Directors Conference of Regulatory Authorities (DLM) in Germany.  

The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 19-21 October 2005 in Budapest at the invitation of the National Radio and Television Commission ORTT.