Television Business International

EBU gives thumbs-up to content portability

European public broadcaster organisation the EBU has expressed approval of the EC’s proposed changes to allow audiovisual services to be made available across borders within the Single Market.

The pubcaster body said that regulations had to be updated to allow content to be made available across borders on the internet and said that the EC’s draft regulation was based on the existing satellite and cable TV rules that had functioned well for the past two decades.

It said that current legal uncertainty and the variation in copyright rules between member states meant that broadcasters were prevented from making their programmes available online.

The EBU said that by applying a licensing framework based on the broadcaster’s country of origin – as is the case for traditional broadcasting – the EC would enable online content to be made available across borders.

The EC proposals, outlined in September, provide a way for broadcasters to obtain authorisations they need from rights-holders to transmit content across EU borders.

The EBU clarified that it is not against geo-blocking of all content, which it believes is not threatened by the EC’s proposed changes to the rules.

A spokesman said that the organisation supports the EC’s plan because it would introduce a licensing system which makes it much easier for broadcasters and rights-holders to offer programmes across borders online when both rights-holders and broadcasters are willing. however, both would still be free to offer programmes on an exclusive territorial basis if they wish to do so.

The EBU’s stance nevertheless stands in contrast to the position taken by commercial broadcasters group the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) which said in September that the EC proposals could undermine the financing of content. ACT said that an extension of the country of origin principle was “unwelcome” and was not justified by studies commissioned by the EC itself. It said that he regulation would also undermine the ability of rights-holders to license on a territory-specific basis, leading to them incurring significant lost revenues.

“The fact that the same current affairs programme or European-made fiction can be watched in several EU countries via satellite and cable TV but not on the Internet is an anachronism. The European Commission has made a proposal to change this situation by addressing the absence of a well-suited copyright licensing model,” said Nicola Frank, the EBU’s head of European affairs.

“The EBU would not support the Commission’s proposal if it considered that it undermines territoriality and contractual freedom. These principles, which are fundamental for Europe’s audiovisual sector, are clearly asserted in the draft legislation itself. The draft Regulation is based on the licensing model for satellite and cable TV, which has functioned effectively for over 20 years without harming the prerogatives of rights-holders and broadcasters to limit the exploitation of a programme on an exclusive territorial basis if desired. It has simply made the internal market for TV a reality: around 1500 unencrypted free-to-air satellite channels and 3000 cable TV channels are available around Europe.”

The EBU said that the EC’s related proposal to extend the 1993 cable licensing model was “a positive start” but that new provisions should also be applied to OTT and broadcast catch-up services offered via cable and IPTV services.

The EBU was invited to present its views on the proposals to a hearing in the European Parliament organised by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group.