|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.45, 6.12.01, p23|
EUROPEAN TV giants are up in arms over plans by MEPs to force them to adopt a uniform standard for the software in digital set-top boxes
for all services, regardless of whether their content is delivered from satellite or cable or rooftop aerial.
MEPs in the European Parliament's industry committee say the move would make it cheaper for content-providers and public service broadcasters to get access to new interactive digital TV services being rolled-out by firms such as France's Canal Plus, the UK's Sky and Dutch-based UPC.
They want to graft the rule onto the new telecom directives unveiled last year by Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
With the standard, known as 'multimedia home platform' or MHP, content providers would be able to produce the same programme for any platform without extra 're-authoring costs'.
Broadcasters such as Germany's ARD and ZDF, Benelux's RTL Television and equipment manufacturers have welcomed the move.
But companies running the services say it is wrong to mandate the standard - even though they have been actively involved in its development.
Erik Lambert, chief technology officer for Canal Plus, says MHP is still a very young standard that has not proved itself in the market. "We are
in favour of interoperability," he said. "But mandating a standard is always bad law."
Sheila Cassells, head of economic policy at Sky, argues the re-authoring benefits are totally exaggerated - while the move would add huge costs to firms that have already invested heavily in set-top boxes.
Said Cassells: "In the UK we have three different systems. But there are eight million set-top boxes in use - touching on 40 of the population.
That does not suggest that consumers are suffering."
She disputes the claim that having the same standard would keep content providers from having to re-author their works for different standards.
The different capacities of satellite and terrestrial services meant, in reality, programmes such as coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament had to be specially tailored anyway.
Although companies such as Sky would be able to continue to use their existing boxes under the current wording of the amendments tabled by MEPs, any future services would have to use the new MHP norm.
She said this could add over €100 to the cost of new boxes, and would stop the industry from choosing other standards that might work better than MHP.
Hendrik Abma, head of public affairs for the European Cable Communications Association said the rules could endanger the roll-out of digital services by cable firms.
Ministers are set to debate the package of new telecoms laws today (6 December). But EU sources say the Belgian presidency and MEPs are working on a compromise before Parliament's 12 December vote on the issue.
European TV giants are up in arms over plans by MEPs to force them to adopt a uniform standard for the software in digital set-top boxes for all services, regardless of whether their content is delivered from satellite or cable or rooftop aerial.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|