European Commission Reiterates its Support for Open and Interoperable iTV Standards

EU Member States should continue to promote open and interoperable standards for interactive digital TV – including the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) standard â on a voluntary basis, says the European Commission in a new Communication on the interoperability of interactive digital TV. There is no clear case for imposing technical standards at present, but the issue should be reviewed again in 2005. Proposals made by the Commission include setting up a Member State group on MHP implementation, confirming that Member States can offer consumer subsidies for interactive TV receivers – subject to state aid rules – and monitoring access to proprietary digital interactive TV applications.

âIn view of the complexity of the technological and market environment, the very different perceptions of interoperability held by market players, and the fact that interactive digital TV has not yet taken off on a larger scale in many Member States, we felt that the digital television market should continue to develop unhindered for the presentâ commented Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Olli Rehn, âDigital television networks (satellite, terrestrial and cable) have the potential to offer delivery of multi-media information Society services, alongside 3G mobile and other networks, and we welcome all future investment in this important technology. We will however revisit the issue at the end of 2005 in order to see to what extent market developments have contributed to interoperability and freedom of choice for users.â

Meanwhile, the Commission proposes a range of actions to promote the deployment of interactive digital services using the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) standard. These include the creation of a Member State group on MHP implementation, confirmation that Member States can offer consumer subsidies for interactive television receiver equipment, subject to conformity with state aid rules, and monitoring of access to proprietary technologies.

The Communication sets out the Commissionâs position on interoperability of digital interactive television services as required under Article 18 of Directive 2002/21/EC, on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. Article 18 requires Member States to encourage the use of open standards, and transparency of information on proprietary standards. If Article 18 fails to have the desired effect, then the Directive empowers the Commission to take steps to impose a standard.

The Communication builds on an extensive public consultation carried out earlier this year on the basis of a Commission Services working document.