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EBU support for Digital Single Market proposals

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has said it believes the European Commission’s proposal on broadcasters’ online transmissions and retransmissions will enable more Public service media (PSM) content to circulate online without harming the existing prerogatives of rightsholders and broadcasters, suggesting that such bodies need copyright licensing systems which allow them to respond to citizens’ expectations in the EU Digital Single Market.

The EBU was invited to present its viewpoint on the European Commission’s proposal during a November 30 hearing in the European Parliament organised by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group.

EBU Head of European Affairs Nicola Frank said: “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.”

“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,” she added.

“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 rightsholders 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,” she noted.

The EBU says that offering a wide range of programmes, PSM invest over 16 billion in content every year. PSM need to obtain all the necessary rights from a great variety and number of rightsholders: a major PSM organisation is likely to conclude around 70,000 contracts with rightsholders every year, and a single programme can involve up to 100 contributors and rightsholders.

According to the EBU, the lack of legal certainty – stemming from the potential application of 28 national legal copyright frameworks to the same online transmission – coupled with the sheer magnitude of rights PSM organisations need to clear currently prevents most of their TV programmes from being made available online without resorting to geo-blocking.

The EBU says that by applying a single licensing framework, as for traditional broadcasting – based on the broadcaster’s country-of-origin – to broadcasters’ online transmissions in the EU, the model proposed by the Commission is an enabling instrument for the cross-border availability of certain online content offered by broadcasting organisations. “The approach would significantly strengthen legal certainty and the efficiency of licensing for broadcaster’s online operations and ultimately support the free flow of information in Europe,” it argues.

The Commission’s proposal also extends the application of the 1993 cable licensing model to IPTV services. While this is a positive start, the EBU believes that the new provisions should also cater for similar OTT and broadcasters’ catch-up services offered by cable and IPTV services to fully reflect market evolutions.

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