New Digital Strategy could open up online TV across borders

Could UK online players become available to holidaymakers abroad?
The European Commission has unveiled its new Digital Single Market Strategy, which intends to get rid of 'unjustified' geo-blocking and to look at boosting cross-border access to European TV channels.

The strategy may pave the way to allow holidaymakers to legally access services such as iPlayer and SkyGo while they are abroad within the European Union. Likewise, it could open up access to Ireland's RTÉ Player in more places.

As reported by a516digital yesterday, the Commission is planning to make legislative proposals in the first half of 2016 to end 'unjustified' geo-blocking.

It says that action could include a targeted change to the European e-commerce framework, and to the framework set out by Article 20 of the Services Directive (on non-discrimination of recipients of services). As a result, traders will have only limited possibilities to deny access to online services.In parallel to legislative proposals, the Commission today launched a Competition Sector Inquiry to analyse the application of competition law in this area.

Geo-blocking of TV streams is often due to copyright. The Commission says it wants to modernise copyright laws, facilitating the licensing of rights for online distribution of audiovisual content. It says "Being able to legally access content online cross-border will help deal with geo-blocking concerns, while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector. The financing of the audiovisual sector widely relies on a system based on territorial exclusivity, which as such cannot be considered as unjustified geo-blocking."

The Commission has also announced it will review the 1993 Satellite and Cable Directive, assessing how it has facilitated consumers' cross-border access to, and the portability of, satellite broadcasting services in the Internal Market. The Commission will look into the possible extension of its scope to certain broadcasters' online services, but the review won't force broadcasters to make their channels available on a satellite widebeam covering all of Europe.

The changes to legislation are expected by the end of next year. How the changes will in practice affect UK citizens may be subject to the outcome of any EU referendum.





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