Key Messages on the Telecom Package Review

31 January 2008 – AER KEY MESSAGES ON THE REVIEW OF THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS AND SERVICES (TELECOM PACKAGE)

The Association of European Radios (AER) is a Europe-wide trade body representing the interests of over 4,500 private/commercial radio stations across the EU27 and in Switzerland.

AER’s main objective is to develop and improve the most suitable framework for private commercial radio activity. Furthermore, AER intends to promote the diffusion and the use of new technologies in radio transmission. AER encourages co-operation between its members and with other European radio stations and associations, in order to preserve and develop freedom of speech, freedom of enterprise, private initiative and the protection of listeners.

The proposals for the review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (“Telecom package”) contain mainly two elements likely to threaten commercially funded radio broadcasters’ existence: market-based approaches to spectrum management and the general shift in Member States’ powers with regard spectrum, as shown by the creation of the European Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA).

1) Specific role / specific obligations for commercially funded radio broadcasters

Broadcasting is serving public interest objectives, guaranteeing democracy, cultural diversity and media pluralism; it therefore needs exclusive access to radio spectrum:

  • The European radio broadcasting “dual system” (based on a mix of public and private broadcasters) guarantees easily free-to-air accessible information, with a pluralistic approach, and in a timely manner; these are crucial elements for a democratic society.
  • National regulation foresees a set of public interest obligations for radio broadcasters, and especially for commercially funded radio broadcasters.

2) Member States are free and must remain competent to allocate spectrum to commercially funded radio broadcasters if they consider this to be in the public interest

Member States are best placed to shape their own national broadcasting systems, and must therefore retain responsibility for matters such as the allocation of frequencies:

  • Radio spectrum is a natural resource, and its rational and efficient exploitation can enhance a nation’s productivity as well as the quality of life of its citizens. In order to derive its full benefits, it is essential to develop and implement efficient national frameworks for spectrum management.
  • All national radio frequency landscapes are different, possessing different frequency plans or different plans for digitization.
  • All national radio broadcasting markets are different, i.e. with different social, cultural and historical characteristics and with different market structures and needs. Development of services of public interest changes vastly among Member States, as also commercial models.
  • All national radio broadcasting markets are different and therefore have different spectrum needs, which cannot be regulated in a centralized way.
  • Investments into radio broadcasting have been extremely high; therefore, regulation must be tailored to local needs in order to allow the best possible development of both private and public sector. In that sense, individual national licences with an adequate period of time (at least fifteen years), provide necessary certainty to engage in viable business models for free-to-air broadcasting.

3) International coordination of spectrum is a fact

ITU, which is part of the United Nations, and CEPT are international organisations, which already secure coordination of frequencies:

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations, and particularly its Table of Frequency Allocations, have been revised and updated regularly in view of the enormous demand for spectrum usage. This is crucial to keep pace with the rapid expansion of existing systems and the spectrum-demanding advanced wireless technologies that are being developed.
  • The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), which convenes every three to four years, is at the core of the international spectrum management process and constitutes the starting point for national practices. WRC reviews and revises the Radio Regulations, an international treaty establishing the framework for the use of radio frequencies and satellite orbits among ITU member countries, and considers any question of a worldwide character within its competence and related to its agenda.
  • CEPT, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations – composed of 48 European countries – has also an extremely important role in shaping the radio spectrum landscape in Europe.

4) Market-based approaches to spectrum management may endanger commercially funded radio broadcasting

This is especially true for service neutrality (the ability for a given service to use any frequency) and secondary trading (the ability to trade spectrum access usage rights between parties in a secondary market).

  • Commercially funded radio broadcasters do not oppose market-based approaches to spectrum management in general
  • BUT these should not be applied in the “broadcasting bands”
  • As commercially funded radio broadcasters are mainly SMEs, it would be almost impossible for them to envisage competing for access to spectrum

For the above-mentioned reasons:

  • It must be provided that Member States can allocate spectrum exclusively or with priority to broadcasting, and, especially to commercially funded radio broadcasting; harmonized approaches, especially through the European Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA), are not the appropriate answer: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Member States should retain the freedom to assign frequencies to radio broadcasters through individual licences; and
  • Service neutrality should not be applied in the bands used by broadcasters; secondary trading should only be contemplated if there is no change of use of the traded frequencies, i.e., broadcasting frequencies shall remain broadcasting frequencies when being traded.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Frederik Stucki, AER Secretary General, at aer @ aereurope.org