ACT calls for balanced regulation
By Julian Clover
Published: November 9, 2010 07.00 Europe/London

Philippe Delusinne, the President of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) has called on European regulators to be even handed in the regulation of new entrants to the TV market.

Speaking ahead of the ACT’s annual conference being held in Brussels today (Tuesday) Delusinne, who is also CEO of RTL Belgium, told Broadband TV News that internet players that were addressing the TV screen should play by the same rules as those already in the market. “There are new players in the game, and at the same time as there is more flexibility, there will also be more constraints,” he said. “We want more flexibility and this is the case when we want all the same players adhering to the same rules, not just the classical broadcasters, but the newcomers.”

Despite the broad membership enjoyed by the ACT – 31 members across 34 countries *– Delusinne said there were many common challenges. These included the need to find a balance between the receipt of state aid by public broadcasters against the potential damage to the commercial sector. Increased competition and content piracy were also on the agenda.

“We’re not in a deep crisis or on our way to disappearing. Commercial broadcasters are not just here to make money, but we also have a mission, and I use the word because here in Belgium we’re delivering 30-40% more audience to the news than the public broadcaster, so we’re not just there for entertaining, but also informing people”.

Delusinne was able to paint a generally positive picture of the commercial TV sector, saying that Europe’s commercial broadcasters had recovered most of the ground lost when advertising revenues began to fall two years ago. “If we were very afraid two years ago, and nobody knew where we were going a year ago, today we can say advertising has recovered to a level when the crisis began”.

The period spent watching TV has increased for a tenth consecutive year with the average amount of daily viewing now standing at 222 minutes. “For over ten years people have been speaking about the fragmentation of the market and the audience we will lose, yet on the contrary we are winning audience, year after year.”

Delusinne attributed the rise to the ever-increasing number of channels available in the market – 245 added in the last year alone – together with an improvement in the quality of programmes on offer. “There were a lot of stories that suggested that young people would not watch television, but this is simply not true.” He said that unlike the music and newspaper industries, television was still not losing share.

On the flip side, Delusinne said that the increasing costs of acquired series, movies and sports, was making programming more and more expensive. Added to this was the investment required for high definition television without any return. “It’s only a cost, we don’t have any choice, because it has become the standard”.

Delusinne said that rather than stand on the sidelines, commercial broadcasters were prepared to invest, his own RTL Belgium working on internet and mobile delivery, such as the five times a day news bulletin, created especially for mobile devices.