Adapting the regulatory framework to the challenges of Connected TV
The Commission's public consultation on the convergence in the audiovisual sector green paper, adopted in April 2013, was closed at the end of September 2013. This initiative followed on from the discussions on the emergence of connected television. Although considered a minor issue not that long ago (today, only 3% of TV sets are connected), this issue has now expanded to encompass an eco-system comprised of all devices providing access to audiovisual content and the internet, such as smart TVs of course, but also PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Therefore, it's more correct to talk of connected content, rather than connected television.
The aim now is to introduce EU-wide legislation in order to provide a framework for the new challenges related to connected TV. The regulatory task involves a possible adaptation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which currently provides the framework for audiovisual media services, or the even the introduction of a new regulatory framework specific to connected television.
Furthermore, the rapid spread of mobile devices that enable users to access audiovisual content, such as tablets, raises the issue of the portability of audiovisual content too. People will increasingly want to watch their favourite national TV channels outside their own countries, which is not permitted by current rights, which are acquired by broadcasters for one specific national territory. It is in this context that the Commission has launched its initiative "Licences for Europe", via which it has invited the industry to make proposals to get rid of the barriers that currently obstruct digital services.
The position of the Bouygues group
TF1, a major player in the French broadcasting sector, responded to the Commission's public consultation. For the Bouygues group, the emergence of new players will quickly lead to a situation of an unlevel competitive playing field, where traditional TV channels are governed by strict rules, have to commit to production obligations, and be monitored continually by regulatory authorities, and where "channels" hosted on the web don't have to adhere to these strict obligations, being governed only by general web regulations.
Furthermore, by offshoring their operations, these web-based players can choose the Member State with the most advantageous fiscal regime and thus optimise their tax charges, something traditional audiovisual companies cannot do, since they are only allowed to broadcast in the countries where they are based. Besides the resulting unlevel competitive playing field, this situation also points to a risk of a drying up of public resources in the digital economy, which is a very urgent issue for both Member States and the entire European Union.
Regarding the portability of audiovisual content, the Bouygues group shares the concerns of the Commission and is considering a number of concrete proposals in this area. The aim is to facilitate access to audiovisual services throughout Europe, without undermining the business model based on geographical and cultural segmentation, whose success is also a guarantee of the financing of European audiovisual content.