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OECD discussions on trade restrictions on audiovisual services

The OECD organised recently an experts meeting on the audiovisual sector, with the aim of analyzing key trade policy issues on audiovisual services, in particular the legal and regulatory limitations that companies have to face when they want to invest or develop their businesses globally.

 

José Juan Haro, Regional Director of Regulation in Telefónica Latinamerica and me, attended the meeting on behalf of Telefónica. In fact, we were a little bit surprised that we were the only speakers from the telecommunication sector on the agenda. Only traditional audiovisual players were listed as speakers: broadcasters, film producers, content right managers, etc. However, already the introductory speech by the Chair, Mrs. Carol Balassa, convinced us that our presence was useful for the debate. She addressed one by one all the current issues in the public debate: the need to address both telecommunications and computer services regulations, if effective policy is to be made on the AV sector; new trends of customer behaviour, who stream more and more video from over-the-top providers; and – most importantly – the regulatory and Public Policy impacts of this new situation, especially the lack of rules and regulation applying to new actors.

 

Disappointingly, the following speakers did not pick up these interesting challenges and the reality described by some of them seemed to be a different one. Many focused on concerns which seem to be rather reflecting the 20th and not the 21st century. Cultural diversity regulations and quotas of emissions were often mentioned and the debate seemed to be mainly orchestrated as a battle between French vs. US-American interests: the “preservers” who want to safeguard cultural heritage by regulation vs. the “globalizers” that provide what the customer demands. All of that looked like yesterday’s debate, an old drama, played over-and-over in the last decades.

 

In contrast, our intervention focused on the new trends and challenges which are affecting and in fact re-shaping the sector. José Juan Haro highlighted especially the vanishing frontiers that traditionally have separated audiovisual and ICT services and advocated to follow these market developments by eliminating rules and regulation which prevent telecom operators to provide TV and multiple-play services as well as any restrictions on foreign investments which are still in place in some countries.

 

José Juan´s intervention triggered a very lively discussion among participants which reflected some of the challenges outlined in the thought-provoking opening words by the chair.

 

And that is just right, because the Internet broadband is already reshaping the audiovisual services that consumers are demanding worldwide and that these changes are creating new business opportunities and at the same time, enhancing cultural diversity. Market players, Policy-makers and Regulators need to follow fast these developments to not fall behind.

 

 

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