Analysing before regulating

After Berlin in 2010, it was the turn of Frankfurt this year to host an event organised by EuroReg and aimed at European TV regulators and industry experts. Taking as its theme Connected TV and the impact on the European broadcasting model, it was attended by about 80 delegates from such countries as France, UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, with most referring to the convergence of the internet and TV as "the industry's next big thing." Indeed, in Germany every second TV set sold is already an HbbTV or smart TV, as the seamless merger of internet and linear TV services on entertainment screens in the living room is called. Over 5 million such sets are installed in German homes and it is expected that half of all homes will be equipped by the year 2015. Furthermore, internet-based catch-up and VOD services are playing an increasingly important role.

"We are still in phase one and far from direct access to the internet via TV sets", said Wolfgang Thaenert, director of the regional regulator LPR Hessen and acting European liaison officer of the "medienanstalten", the umbrella organisation of German regulatory bodies, who had been invited to the event. However, that it is more important to get ready for the big push that will eventually happen.


Christoph Wagner (right), managing partner of the law firm Hogan Lovells Berlin and co-chair of the group's global TMT group, meanwhile indicated that the convergence of platforms makes it necessary to de-regulate rather than vice versa. There is nevertheless a definite ranking in what should be done. "In advertising there is a lot than can be de-regulated, while talking about the protection of minors we should not touch the standards".


De-regulating and keeping it simple was one of the punch lines throughout the conference, with Monica Arino, Ofcom's director for international affairs, also pushing in this direction. She warned not to rush things: "We still do not know where everything is going. We need to look at things very closely and analyse in what regard the new services are changing the consumer's behaviour. Already today surveys show that mobile devices are much more important for kids than the traditional TV. For that reason we have to be very careful what we regulate". However her fears were more towards over regulating again every little detail in the markets. For that reason she reacted quite harshly to the proposal of Jürgen Brautmeier, director of the German regulator LfM, who will take over the European responsibility at the medienanstalten from next year on. He, too, agreed to beware of speeding actions and to analyse markets first. However, he also wanted to put a focus on the new gatekeepers like Google, Facebook or Apple. "It can't be that consumer protection rules that apply all across Europe suddenly should not exist anymore in these environments."

To one question nobody seemed to have an answer: How to respond to the threat of moving internet based services targeted at European markets to places that can't be regulated from here. Oliver Hergesell, head of communications, marketing and public policy at Luxembourg based RTL Groupe, demanded fair regulation for traditional media companies: "It can't be that no rules apply to internet based startups while we are regulated in a high degree", he said. Brautmeier agreed, referring to the German initiative that linear video services watched by more than 500 viewers at the same time should apply for a TV licence: "We at LfM always thought that this is stupid and today we see that it is getting more stupid all the time."

Lluís Borrell, media practice leader at the global media and telecommunications consultant Analysis Mason, hinted at the huge potential that the convergence process has for European players. The European media market has become more competitive by new integrated services but is also influenced significantly by economic fluctuations or by turmoil on the financial markets. However, his outlook was very positive for the long-term. This might be one of the reasons that Wolfgang Thaenert summarised the day positively. "For a day like this we are having a positive result", he said.


Others may not agree, since we are still in the very early stages of the convergence. And discussions on how the regulatory future should look like have just begun and some participants on the floor feared that these discussions would take too long. The official process, especially to adopt the European framework, takes time as Marcel Boulogne, head of "implementation of regulatory policy" for media and audiovisual at the European Commission in Brussels stated freely. The process to launch a new directive takes eight years, and that is only if everything goes well. That's long, especially in these fast moving times.

Dieter Brockmeyer, Source: New TV Insider

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The Idea of EuroReg

The European Union is a highly complex structure of competing interests, traditions and needs of the member states. It takes a lot of effort to create a structure that at the same time enables efficient interaction between the member states and between the EU as a whole and the rest of the world. This is made more difficult by the fact that the audiovisual world within the EU has traditionally been influenced by national interests and regulated to a high degree by member states. Therefore in an increasing global competition the media industry requires one voice policy.

EuroReg, initiated by Germany's DLM European Liaison in 2010, sets out to discuss the most pertinent issues in the field of audio-visual media development on a yearly basis. Such is the case with Connected TV in year 2011. The discussions are held in an exclusive expert panel of senior regulators, media industry managers and senior consultants from selected European countries. This brings together relevant players from regulatory bodies and the industry, whose task is to come up with impulse for broader discussions.



EuroReg 2011:
From Connected TV to Coherent Media - Impact on the European Broadcasting Model

What will TV, the program and the industry itself, look like in 10 years?

Today, most of the flat screen TV sets sold are capable of providing access to the internet. In addition, an increasing number of TV providers are rolling out connected TV services. Furthermore, apart from IPTV, direct access to audiovisual content to mobile devices and tabs is provided by so-called Apps. Whether proprietary services, that give limited access to web services, which belong to the same brand, conform with the principle of open access is another open question.

However open access to all internet services will not only prepare the road to many new options but also bring the traditional regulation approaches to their limits. The new role of regulation is often described to act as enabler of new business approaches. This requires new ways of thinking and poses many questions: How can necessary regulation in the open and global web be obtained? What is the demand of the players and of the people? What does it mean for cultural diversity and individual national approaches in regulation?

These are only some of the questions EuroReg 2011 will discuss.

The conference will be held in English and German.
Simultaneous translation will be provided.



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