Interview: Reding to rescue mobile TV in Europe

The European Commission will present a new document aimed at paving the way for the spread of mobile television in Europe “within a few weeks,” EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding told EURACTIV in an interview. She gave positive signals on advertising on mobile handsets, but warned of dangers regarding invasion of privacy.

Brussels pushed European industry to seize the opportunity presented last summer by the Olympic Games in China and the European Football Championships to launch new national mobile television services (EURACTIV 02/04/08). 

Expectations were high, because Europe’s average penetration rate of mobile phones is 111% and the television market grows exponentially during important sports events. Yet, the new services were not widely taken up by European users. “The industry was not ready,” commented Commissioner Reding.

At the moment, mobile TV services based on the Commission-backed standard DVB-H (EURACTIV 18/03/08) are only in place in Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland. France and Finland are expected to be the next to launch new services, according to Commissioner Reding.

To help the spread of mobile television across Europe, the Commission will present a communication “within a few weeks,” said the commissioner. The initiative plans to give clear guidelines to the industries involved in the business, she explained. It will also try to facilitate collaboration among broadcasters and telecom operators to ease them out of the conflict that has been a feature of dialogue so far.

Reding did not rule out the use of advertising to help the industry invest in new services, but warned of privacy-related concerns. Speaking at a conference organised in Brussels by ACT, the Association of Commercial Television in Europe, she gave assurances that “no new ban will be imposed on ads,” but she also told the industry that “this is an area in which co-regulation and self-regulation have an important role to play”. “If you want to go ahead in this field, take initiatives in self-regulation,” she told an audience of EU broadcasters.

In the interview, she also reiterated her tough line against BT in the notorious PHORM case, warning other companies that use targeted ads without the prior consent of users of the legal risk they were taking.

For the Commission, mobile TV represents not only a business opportunity, but also a way of increasing cross-border television take-up. If people get used to watching television on their mobile devices, it will become more and more common to do it abroad, triggering the development of truly European channels and content (EURACTIV 20/05/08).

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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