Viviane Reding (European Commission): Building European IT for the XXI Century

- Could you briefly explain your background? In which way does your background as a journalist have an influence on your position as Commissioner for Information Society and Media?

- More than five years have passed since the Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications was adopted. Has the framework been successful in achieving its objectives? What is your assessment regarding the implementation of the Regulatory framework by Member States? Which are, in your opinion, the major challenges for regulation of electronic communications in the next five or ten years?

- In the field of electronic communications, there appears to be a clash between the objectives pursued by the Regulatory Framework and industrial policy objectives pursued by some Member States. Is it possible to reconcile both aims? In this same vein, some argue that European regulation in the field should shift from a service-based model to an infrastructure-based one. What is your position?

- Telecommunications operators and cable companies in the developed world are currently upgrading their networks to fibre optic. When compared to South Korea and Japan, European countries appear to be lagging behind in this regard. What accounts for such differences? How can such upgrades be encouraged? Is there, in your opinion, potential demand for very high bandwidths?

- Action by the Commission under Article 82 EC against incumbent telecommunications operators often gives rise to criticism. It is argued that, once practices have been allowed by National Regulatory Authorities, action against such companies on competition law grounds is a source of legal uncertainty. Do you agree with these arguments?

- As part of the review of the Regulatory Framework, the Commission seems to be in favour of increased flexibility in the use of the radio spectrum. Liberalisation of the radio spectrum could certainly allow for a more efficient use of this resource. Is it realistic, in your opinion, to expect the shift to a “market-based approach” to the radio spectrum?

- Incumbent telecommunications operators are now emerging as important players in the pay television sector. It is feared that, with “triple play” offers, these operators may extend their dominant position to premium television content. How this new reality should be tackled, in your view? Do you think competition law can deal satisfactorily with the risks associated with “triple play” offers? Does it make sense, after these market developments, to differentiate between content and other services for the purposes of regulation?

- Concerning Mobile (Telephony) Broadcasting, the Commission plans to include DVB-H in the EU’s official list of standards and will encourage its use in all 27 Member States. Could you explain the reasons why the Commission chose this intermediate strategy between a market-oriented approach and “mandatory use” approach? Could you explain how did the Commission select this standard among those existing on the market, i.e. Digital Media Broadcasting (DMB) and MediaFLO?

- In a recent speech you mentioned that you were "pleased that France has availed itself of the right which the European Union has given it to provide the general public with free-to-air access to major events on widely viewed channels and I call upon Member States who have not given their public this opportunity to follow suit" . Do you think there could be place in this issue for self regulation by sport federations? Do you consider that these major entertainment events should be treated as other scarce resources?

- In May 2007, a political agreement was reached regarding the adoption of an Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Why do you consider that this is the right instrument to deal with future media developments? Audiovisual media services providers are still obliged to devote a majority of their airtime to “European works”. Why is this measure still necessary, in your opinion? Do you consider this is an effective way to develop a competitive and healthy European audiovisual sector?

- The Commission has recently launched a “staff paper” concerning media pluralism. There appears to be some overlap concerning the objectives pursued by national legislation dealing with media pluralism and the objectives pursued by competition law. Moreover, media pluralism concerns seem to be taken into account in the Commission practice under competition law rules. Why are sector-specific rules on media pluralism necessary? After some failed attempts in the past, what should be the role of the Commission in this field?

Interview conducted by Pablo Ibañez Colomo, London School of Economics.

Pablo IBANEZ COLOMO: Could you briefly explain your background? In which way does your background as a journalist have an influence on your position as Commissioner for Information Society and Media? For 21 years I worked as a journalist with Luxemburger Wort before entering politics. As Media Commissioner, such a background has obviously been a great help. It has been a tremendous asset when I have met with publishers, editors and industry to listen to their views and concerns. However, since I was a journalist the industry has evolved greatly. Technological change and market forces have had a strong impact. That's why the European Commission's "Media Task Force", which works under my responsibility, is looking at depth at Europe's current media landscape to have a better

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Viviane Reding, Pablo Ibáñez Colomo, Viviane Reding (European Commission): Building European IT for the XXI Century, December 2007, Concurrences N° 4-2007, Art. N° 14306, pp. 6-9

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