B'casters slam EC's mobile TV efforts

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BRUSSELS -- Europe's commercial TV broadcasters have criticized the European Commission for failing to unravel the complex rules involved in licensing content for mobile TV.

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe claims that the EC is so focused on settling technical standards for mobile broadcasters that it has ignored concerns about clearing rights for programs within the European Union.

Although the Commission's July 18 decision to support the DVB-H standard was part of a wider policy on mobile broadcasting, it did not address the issue of licensing across national borders, the ACT said Friday.

"The commission has underestimated certain legal and commercial issues linked to potential cross-border mobile TV services," ACT director general Ross Biggam said. "What happens if a customer signs up to a service by a French broadcaster or operator and tries to watch a program with that service in, say, Poland? Would there be a 'roaming' policy like mobile phones have? The commission has not answered that question."

Biggam said that the commission's idea of an "integrated policy for mobile TV" fails to take into account the fact that that EU copyright legislation and the entire content market is based on the territoriality of rights. "Regulatory prescription of pan-European licensing could endanger existing business models that are built on territoriality," he said.

Biggam said that the complicated processes involved in clearing rights could make discussions about standards moot.

"If consumers want to enjoy mobile TV anytime, anywhere and on any device, broadcasters will respond and acquire the required rights on a multiterritorial or pan-European basis, depending on their business model," he said. He added that commercial broadcasters also were concerned that linguistic diversity will make the cost of producing pan-European mobile TV content prohibitive.

The ACT represents 380 free-to-air and pay TV channels in 34 countries, and Biggam said that commercial operators are all seeking to diversify into areas beyond conventional television such as mobile distribution.

"The development of mobile TV is currently on its way in many European countries," he said. "Before taking any legislative action on mobile TV, the EU should seriously investigate whether there is a mass market potential of pan-European mobile TV services at all, as trials and research on mobile TV to date do not produce evidence of the significant consumer interest in pan-European services which would be necessary to underpin a viable business case."
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