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EU Commission threatens Creative Industries, Culture, and Freedom of the Press

On September 01, 2014, the European Commission published the final report of expert Pascal Lamy. The report includes recommendations for the future use of UHF-Television frequency range 694 – 794 MHz. The full frequency range is currently used across Europe for broadcasting and professional wireless production of contents and events. By 2020 this frequency range is supposed to be fully cleared and used for mobile broadband exclusively. EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that alternative frequency ranges for wireless production (i.e. microphones and ear monitoring) will be provided and synchronized across Europe. However, these replacements are not sufficient in quantity and quality. Therefore, it remains uncertain where previous users should broadcast. With its recommendations the EU Commission risks severe damage to culture – and creative industries, as well as to cultural institutions funded by the public, as all of those cannot work without microphones and wireless production technology. In addition, this will also have an effect on the freedom of the press: Due to the drastic cut down of the frequency range, camera and broadcasting teams will not be able to report live from sport, political, social, or cultural events.

“If these plans will become reality, we will lose a valuable broadcast spectrum forever, which will result in economic damages,” said Norbert Hilbich, CEO at APWPT. “In addition, every citizen and consumer will feel the negative impact. First, it will hit events, such as big festivals, musicals, or TV shows, where many broadcast channels are being used at the same time. These would not take place anymore in the familiar form. Journalistic live coverage would be very restricted, for example reporting on top sporting events in the soccer Bundesliga and the Champion’s League, or reporting on regional and national elections. Setting up major events on an international platform, such as the European Song Contest or the Olympics, would be impossible.”

Germany’s Position worsens the Problem

“Unfortunately, Germany does not conciliate the EU Commission, but rather supports the changes of the broadcast spectrum,” Hilbich continued. “Based on the EU Commission’s official announcement on the publication of the Lamy report, the auction of frequency range 694 – 790 MHz to mobile phones, the ‘Digital Dividend 2’ is definite – despite several decisions of the Federal Council. One of the main supporters is the Federal Ministry of Transportation.”

Suitable Replacement Frequencies not in Sight

In case frequency range 694 – 790 MHz cannot be used anymore in the future, neither Germany nor the European Union have been able to offer sufficient replacement frequencies so far. According to Neelie Kroes, acting EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, frequency ranges 823 – 832 MHz and 1785 – 1805 MHz would become available for professional wireless productions and be synchronized across Europe. Unfortunately, these frequency spectra provide a lot less space compared to the current broadcast ranges. In addition, the quality of those is inferior compared to 694 – 790 MHz: Frequency range 823 – 832 MHz is a so-called duplex or mid-gap between mobile frequencies used in Germany already. At the moment professional use is very limited due to disruptions caused by LTE releases. In Germany, frequency range 1785 – 1805 does not show any disruptions yet, but relatively poor conditions for wave transmission of radio microphones do exist. This is disadvantageous when larger distances have to be covered, and stage settings or even bodies have to be infiltrated.