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IRIS 2010-1:Extra

European Commission

Communication Proposing a Coordinated Approach towards the Digital Dividend

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David Korteweg

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 28 October 2009 the European Commission adopted a Communication concerning several policy proposals for a coordinated approach towards the digital dividend in Europe. Two proposals urging for immediate action by the Member States are further elaborated upon in a Recommendation by the European Commission that was adopted in conjunction with this Communication (see IRIS 2010-1:0/121). The other proposals in the Communication focus on strategic and longer-term issues and call for political decision-making.

In the light of the economic crisis and the undergoing switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting, the Commission proposes the development of a common EU Roadmap in order to fully benefit from the socio-economic and cultural potential of the digital dividend spectrum. A study conducted by the Commission on the positive socio-economic impact of the digital dividend’s potential has played a key role in this respect.

The two ‘key actions’ urge (1) Member States to complete the switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting by 1 January 2012; and (2) the adoption of harmonised technical conditions of use of the 790-862 Mhz sub-band for electronic communication services. According to the Communication, these two proposals for action are necessary to address the immediate policy objectives of the “EU’s economic recovery efforts, and to maximise consumer benefits” (page 6). Furthermore, by providing harmonised technical standards for the use of this spectrum, these proposals also seek to prevent a fragmented situation amongst the Member States and loss of economies of scale. See also the aforementioned Recommendation by the Commission (see IRIS 2010-1:0/121).

Besides these two key measures, the Commission proposes three strategic measures that will require input by the Council and the European Parliament. First, it proposes a common EU position to effectively coordinate the use of the digital dividend with non-EU third countries. Cross-border interference as well as the potential ‘knock-on’ effect of the surrounding states’ use of the spectrum are given as reasons for a common EU position. Particularly within the light of the forthcoming World Radio Conference in 2012, the Commission stresses the importance of a common EU position with regard to the digital dividend policy at an international level, in order to improve the EU’s negotiating power. Second, in addition to the proposed urgent technical measure regarding the 790-862 Mhz sub-band, the Commission proposes that Member States should cease using this sub-band for high-power broadcasting transmitters and open it up to electronic communication services. Third, it proposes the adoption of common minimum requirements in order to incentivise the most efficient use of the (scarce) digital dividend spectrum.

The Commission also refers to a list of the “most promising” (page 9) forward-looking initiatives, as identified in the Commission study, which could have a positive long term impact on the future of the digital dividend.

After the Commission has received the input of the European Parliament and the Council, it intends to submit a spectrum action programme in 2010 to both institutions. It also intends to submit the proposed urgent technical measure regarding the 790-862 Mhz sub-band to the Radio Spectrum Committee for their regulatory opinion.

The Communication ends with an invitation to the Member States to report to the Commission, by mid 2010, on the status of their switch-off of analogue broadcasting.

Communication from the Commission, “Transforming the digital dividend into social benefits and economic growth”, 28 October 2009, COM(2009) 586 EN
Recommendation from the Commission, “Facilitating the release of the digital dividend in the European Union”, 28 October 2009, 2009/848/EC, OJ L 308, 24 November 2009 EN
Commission study (conducted by Analysys Mason, DotEcon and Hogan&Hartson): “A European approach to the digital dividend”, September 2009 EN