Letter to Commissioner Liikanen

14 February 2003 – THIS LETTER MAKES REFERENCE TO A PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON THE COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT “BARRIERS TO WIDESPREAD ACCESS TO NEW SERVICES AND APPLICATIONS OF THE INFORMATION SOCIETY THROUGH OPEN PLATFORMS IN DIGITAL TV AND THIRD GENERATION MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS”.

Mr. Erkki Liikanen
Commissioner for Information Society
European Commission
Rue de la Loi, 200
B-1049 Brussels

Brussels, 14 February 2003

Dear Commissioner,

Ref. Public consultation on the Commission Staff Working Document “Barriers to widespread access to new services and applications of the information society through open platforms in digital TV and third generation mobile communications”.

The Commission has invited interested parties to contribute their comments on the document in reference, which has been prepared in response to requests from the Barcelona Summit (March 2002) and the Seville Council (June 2002).

We welcome the launch of a public consultation on this issue, which gives AER, as representative of European commercial radios, the opportunity to stress once again the importance of Radio, both in economic and social terms, and of Digital Radio in the Information Society.

We believe our ideas on the subject are adequately covered in the WorldDAB Forum response. However, we would like to underline a few points that are important for commercial radios.

In our view, if the objective of this exercise is to guarantee the access of all citizens to the Information Society, the debate cannot be confined to TV and 3G. It should also include other services such as Radio. Radio’s penetration in Europe is very high and audiences reach 210 million European listeners every day. These factors should not be neglected in the political debate.

Digital radio services are being launched in the European Union by using the Eureka 147 DAB – Digital Audio Broadcasting – technology, which has been recognised by the Commission as today’s only system suitable for digital audio services. It is important to keep in mind that this system is an open and interoperable standard, which is a benefit both for the operators and the citizens.

AER has welcomed the listing of this system although we urge the Commission to monitor technological developments in the radio sector to keep the List of Standards up-to-date.

The timing of the introduction of commercial digital radio services remains highly uncertain. The regulatory and legislative differences between European countries are tending to play havoc with the creation of a European critical digital radio mass, which will be important if consumers and manufacturers are to give their support. Therefore, the coordination role of the Commission remains necessary.

Digital Radio is capable of making a major contribution to the Information Society, offering data and multimedia services. Its interoperability with digital telephony and PCs has been successfully tested.

If the European citizens are asked to move to digital technologies, they should be entitled to have access to all the services they are using today: Radio, TV, PCs, Telephony, etc. The convergence of all of them will make the real Information Society for the citizen.

In light of the forgoing, AER hopes the European Institutions and national governments will encourage a fair allocation of spectrum and the creation of the necessary legislative environments in Member States for the take up of digital radio. Such a move would help to ensure that European citizens will be able to enjoy the benefits of the cultural, informational and entertainment content of this easy access, economical, free-to-air new medium.
Yours sincerely,

Sergio Natucci
President