European Commission Issues New Statement on Interactive TV

The European Commission has issued a Communication detailing its current position regarding the interoperability of interactive digital TV. The document is a follow-up to that which was published in July 2004 in which the Commission concluded that there was no clear case for mandating standards for interactive television. This position was to be reviewed in 2005, the results of which review are now published.

The previous communication recommended the establishment of the MHP Implementation Group, which met a number of times in the last year. It served as a useful forum for various relevant stakeholders from both industry and government to exchange information and report on best practise in the interactive field. Ten country cases were presented: Italy, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Belgium.

The period since July 2004 has also seen significant market development for MHP, particularly in Italy where more than 2 million MHP decoders have now been sold. In this document, the success of MHP in Italy is attributed to three factors: 1)  the voluntary agreement of Italian broadcasters to use MHP; 2) the introduction of a subsidy scheme which has enabled economies of scale to push the price of boxes to below â¬100; and 3) the definition of common implementation specifications.

Having reviewed both developments in the market and the work of the MHP Implementation Group, the Commission states that it has decided not to change its previously stated position, namely “that mandating EU-wide standards […] would not contribute significantly to the growth of interactive digital television in Europe, and could have significant negative effects“. The document concludes with the statement of a number of priorities:

– Work with Member States to ensure the successful switchover to digital TV – as the facilitator for interactive digital services
– Promote open standards and interoperability
– Support cooperation between Member States and between stakeholders
– Promote international cooperation on digital TV open standards and interoperability
– Monitor use of proprietary technologies