|Vol.7, No.33, 13.9.01, p25
MILLIONS of set-top boxes used to pick-up satellite, cable and terrestrial digital services would have to be scrapped if MEPs succeed in setting new standards for the industry, TV companies claim.
The warning comes as the assembly's industry and legal affairs committees prepare to debate next week on amendments to a draft EU telecom directive, designed to prevent the likes of UK satellite giant BSkyB and France Telecom Cable from calling the shots on what programmes viewers can receive.
The changes are being proposed by Finnish Liberal Astrid Thors and Dutch Conservative Wim van Velzen, who want to achieve a level playing field in the digital TV business.
But Philip Jenner, EU affairs executive for BSkyB, fears it would mean his company being forced to write off €3.2 billion worth of investment in set-top boxes which it has provided free to 5.5 million consumers.
Jenner said MEPs were wrong to target the draft 'framework directive', adding that other legislation in the pipeline governing fair access and interconnection rates would ensure that content providers were not shut out from the satellites. "Having MEPs put these amendments without understanding the issues sends appalling signals to business," he added.
The new standards which MEPs are demanding focus on the technology used in set-top boxes to govern interactive services, such as allowing sports fans to choose from which camera angle to view a match and the provision of interactive banking and shopping.
Currently the standards used by digital operators vary from platform to platform.
Jenner says forcing all firms to use the same interface on set-top boxes would not guarantee that different systems would be compatible with each other.
Marc Mesle, chief executive of France Telecom Cable, said the market place should decide for itself whether to adopt common standards for set-top boxes.
The amendments, if carried, are expected to go to the full session of the Parliament in October for approval.
The European Commission and member states have already signalled their opposition to the MEPs' proposals.
Millions of set-top boxes used to pick up satellite, cable and terrestrial digital services would have to be scrapped if MEPs succeed in setting new standards for the industry, TV companies claim.
|Business and Industry