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INFORMATION SOCIETY : COMMISSION: DVB-H THE EUROPEAN STANDARD FOR MOBILE TV.

The European Commissioner for Information Society, Viviane Reding, has once again got what she wanted, this time on the promotion of the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld) norm for the deployment of mobile television in the EU. Gathered for the Telecommunications Council, the 27 EU ministers unanimously adopted, on 29 November, conclusions stressing that "DVB-H seems to have the potential to become the most-common market-driven standard in the EU for terrestrial mobile TV". They believe that "a pan-European approach could provide extra support to the successful, rapid and widespread deployment of mobile TV broadcasting services".

The European Commission launched its strategy in July. It says that this market has a potential of "several billion euro". Its deadline for the adoption of the DVB-H norm is the European Football Championship, which will take place in Austria and Switzerland in 2008.

For Reding, it was the moment to get, from two-thirds of the Council, support for her decision to add the DVB-H norm to the list of European norms. It has now been made possible since only Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK were against it. This norm will be published in the Official Journal of the EU in late February. The European Parliament has the right of scrutiny, according to the comitology procedure. Though the EU says that it is not "imposing" the DVB-H norm, starting from late February all member states are "obliged" to support it and "to encourage its use" for the launch of mobile television, or risk incurring infringements proceedings.

FAMILY OF NORMS

So far, DVB-H has been launched in the Finnish and Italian markets, while it is on trial in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. "We do not mandate the DVB-H norm, it is its family that we have reinforced on the European market," explains Commissioner Reding's spokesperson.

These "interoperable" norms (open to several types of technology) dominate digital broadcasting everywhere in the world, with DVB-S for digital satellite television, DVB-C for digital cable television and DVB-T for digital terrestrial television, explains the Commission.

"I don't really see why we should choose another one," insisted Reding, calling on reluctant member states (particularly Germany) to get behind the norm. "I hope that there won't be any pitfalls," she warned. In July, she left open the possibility to come up with proposals in 2008 to make the DVB-H norm compulsory.

There is no difference with a situation where the norm would have been compulsory, she said in essence before journalists. "We are not going to ban or exclude other norms, but the trend is irreversible," she noted. In other words, she does not need to impose DVB-H, except for "market failure," stressed her spokesperson.

"The Council noted the Commission's comments, it is a good report, the processes are changing and we have therefore adopted this technology, but there is no reason to ban other technologies," observed Mario Lino, the Portuguese communications minister whose country currently holds the EU Presidency. The Council's conclusions nonetheless invite the Commission "to acknowledge the importance of innovation, technological neutrality and a market-orientated approach" for the long-term deployment of mobile television.

Reding has also added another victory to her portfolio. The European Parliament has approved, in second reading and by a large majority, the review of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. "The Parliament has cast the base of an information society [ ]. We have truly reached an internal market for media services [...] where the country of origin' principle will be respected. We have managed to combine industry interests and those of consumers," said Reding, who was named Commissioner of the Year 2007' by the British weekly European Voice.
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Publication:European Report
Date:Dec 3, 2007
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