EC frames plan for digital TV

Commish to treat all electronic communications the same

BRUSSELS — The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, has taken the first steps toward drawing up a regulatory framework for the 15-member bloc’s burgeoning digital television market.

A commission report concludes that the time has now come for abandoning specific legislation for the sector. The report recommends that the future regulatory framework should aim to treat all electronic communications — broadcasting, the Internet and telecoms — as the same.

No specific date is recommended on the key issue of the general switchover from analog to digital. The commission warns that, because of the impact on consumers who will have to buy new receiving equipment, it will closely monitor the switchover to ensure that EU competition law is not broken and that broadcasters’ public service obligations are maintained.

The commission’s report recognizes that 2010 is emerging as a consensus changeover deadline across the EU.

The commission also highlights the uneven development of digital television across the EU. The high levels of investment required have stifled expansion, especially in the smaller countries, where there is simply not a big enough market to support digital TV.

Pointing to various studies which confirm that pay TV subscription revenues are growing faster than ad revenues, the commission report calls for only a minimal level of regulation in order to encourage the development of the market and the spread of digital TV services across the EU.