Following the initiative of the President of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication, Catherine Morin-Desailly, and the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Affairs, Jean -Claude Lenoir, the French Senate’s Culture and Economic Affairs Commissions have held hearings with Sébastien Soriano, President of telecoms regulator Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP) and subsequently Olivier Schrameck, President of broadcast watchdog Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), as part of their work on the transfer of the 700 MHz band, the so-called second digital dividend.
Noting that the Prime Minister, via an Order on January 6 2014, has initiated this process, both Commissions have again expressed their disappointment that the modernisation of TV broadcasting, set out in the law of November 15 2013, had not been met beforehand.
The hearings confirmed the Senators’ fears over the timetable and the transfer to services other than DTT broadcasting:
• Risks to the value of the second digital dividend because of a rushed schedule;
• Premature end to broadcasting in MPEG-2 in April 2016, which will weaken national DTT coverage;
• Financial consequences for local authorities called upon to intervene to redress the loss of reception;
• Accompanying lack of viewers obliged to be equipped with MPEG-4 receivers or adapters, including the most disadvantaged households or affected by loss of coverage;
• Depreciation of investment in the deployment of two multiplexes whose disuse will become inevitable;
• Lack of detail as to the priority of the objectives of public bodies, especially in terms of national digital planning;
• Insufficient transparency of the process for operators, who question the adopted timetable as much as the nature of the reallocated frequencies and the amount of investment to be set aside.
Accordingly Senators Morin-Desailly and Lenoir warn the Government on the feasibility of the proposed timetable and call for legislative and regulatory measures and financial commitments it will take to implement the effective transfer of frequencies and maintain broadcast coverage.