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EBU supports ‘opt in’ option as content portability debate rolls on

Nicola Frank

Nicola Frank

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has said it supports the idea of an ‘opt-in option’ for broadcasters to enable viewers to access free-to-view online services while travelling abroad with the EU.

The EBU said it welcomed tentative moves by European Union member states to enable greater content portability during the EU’s Competitive Council meeting this week.

EBU head of European affairs Nicola Frank said:  “We welcome the outcome of today’s discussions because they have clarified how public service media organisations can offer access to their programmes to citizens who are travelling abroad in the EU. The possibility for EBU members who offer their online services without payment to opt-in to the portability system is the right way forward.”

The EBU also called for stronger action to enable content portability to online audiovisual services through the application of the licensing principles of the existing Satellite and Cable Directive to these services. It said it understood that the EC is examining this possibility.

The EC earlier this week published proposals to allow consumers and companies to buy and sell products online across national boundaries, but stopped short of preventing geo-blocking of audiovisual services. Instead, it noted that “facilitating the access to audiovisual services across borders is part of other initiatives under the Digital Single Market strategy”.

The EC initially set out proposals to all Europeans to travel with their online content in December, along with an action plan to modernise EU copyright rules to allow this. The modernisation of EU copyright rules is set to be discussed in the third quarter of this year.

In the discussion document published at the end of last year, the EC announced that it was “carrying out a review of [the Satellite and Cable] directive for its potential application in the online environment”. The directive includes rules that are designed to facilitate rights clearance for certain cross-border activities, but these rules were devised before the advent of the internet as a means of distributing audiovisual content.

In the document, published in December, the EC conceded that “the ultimate objective of full cross-border access for all types of content across Europe needs to be balanced with the readiness of markets to respond rapidly to legal and policy changes and the need to ensure viable financing models for those who are primarily responsible for content creation. The Commission is therefore proposing a gradual approach to removing obstacles to cross-border access to content and to the circulation of works.”