April 26, 2012 20.42 Europe/London By Robert Briel
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a Spanish plan to compensate digital terrestrial broadcasters for the extra costs of parallel broadcasting, while services are re-allocated to another frequency to free the digital dividend, is in line with EU state aid rules.
The Commission will investigate in particular whether the measure is proportionate and necessary. At this stage, the Commission also has concerns that the measure may favour terrestrial broadcasters over other available technologies.
At the same time, the Commission has approved aid to enable certain households to continue receiving free-to-air channels after the reallocation of frequencies.
Joaquín Almunia, Commission VP in charge of competition policy, said in a statement: “The liberation of the digital dividend creates tremendous opportunities for a better use of spectrum, but we have to make sure that those opportunities are available fairly in compliance with EU State aid rules.”
In Spain, broadcasting services need to be relocated to free band space for the provision of enhanced electronic communication services. To ensure a continuity of broadcasting services, Spain requires broadcasters to send simultaneously on both frequencies for a transitional period of 6-24 months, while citizens adapt their reception infrastructure. This triggers extra costs for the broadcasters concerned. Spain notified a plan to compensate broadcasters for these extra costs.
At this stage, the Commission does not have enough information to determine whether the measure is necessary and proportionate. Moreover, the Commission has concerns that the measure could favour terrestrial broadcasting to the detriment of other technologies, such as satellite transmission, in breach of the principle of technological neutrality, which prescribes an equal treatment of all transmission platforms, independently of the technology used. Indeed, Spain proposes to reallocate only to digital terrestrial frequencies, without considering alternative platforms, which would also be available and suitable to free the digital dividend.
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