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German media clash over web

ARD, ZDF in firing line at Medienwoche

BERLIN — The Medienwoche confab kicked off Wednesday with calls for speedier digitization of German TV, tempered by warnings to pubcasters to curb Internet initiatives.

The week-long Medienwoche embraces three events: the IFA consumer electronics fair, which begins Friday; the Medienforum conference, which brings together industryites, producers and politicos to discuss trends in TV, film, mobile technology, music and games; and the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium – a platform promoting dialogue between the European Union’s leading print media.

Germany’s Association of Commercial Broadcasters and Telecommunication (VPRT) used the occasion to blast pubcasters ARD and ZDF for their digital strategies, which VPRT topper Juergen Doetz described as “unlawful.” Doetz accused the pubcasters of violating a compromise reached with the European Commission regulating the use of license fees.

Commercial broadcasters here have taken issue with the alleged use of pubcasters’ license fees for commercial enterprises, such as their Internet activities.

ARD topper Fritz Raff called the allegations “totally exaggerated,” adding that the pubcaster’s plans were in line with European regulations.

ARD has so far spent some Euros 41 million ($56 million) on its online offerings and its digital strategy has not created any additional costs for the public, Raff said.

Separately, in a keynote speech on “Content as a Growth Factor,” Universal Music Entertainment chief Frank Briegmann presented new digital business models for music producers, which he said have to change from traditional record labels to entertainment companies.

Classic CD sales are being complemented at Universal through a re-selling business with download platforms, partnerships with device manufacturers, new joint ventures like “vybemobile” with E-Plus, and company offerings like the Universal Channel on YouTube.

Briegmann also called for tougher anti-piracy laws, saying artists and labels expect better copyright protection from media policymakers in order to take action more effectively against illegal downloading.

The Medienforum runs through Aug. 31.

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