Brussels, 11 February 2009
Commission clears Dutch regulator OPTA's proposal to enhance competition in the broadcasting markets
The European Commission, taking into account the specific situation of the Dutch market, cleared, in a letter published today, the Dutch telecoms regulator's proposal to impose regulatory obligations on the four largest cable operators in the Netherlands, Ziggo, UPC, Delta and CAIW. These obligations will allow alternative providers of radio and TV ('RTV') signals to compete more effectively with the broadcasting offers over cable. In addition, Ziggo and UPC will have to allow other market parties to sell the formers' analogue radio and TV package, allowing the latter to service consumers. At the same time, the Commission is inviting OPTA to avoid prolonging analogue transmission services as this could lead to inefficient investments and limit the development of innovative digital services and infrastructures. OPTA should implement swiftly and effectively the detailed terms and conditions of the remedies required in order to generate a market structure which is more prone to competitive dynamics.
"I fully support the view of the Dutch telecoms regulator OPTA that more competition is needed in the broadcasting markets in the Netherlands," said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. "This is why the European Commission gives a clear 'green light' to OPTA's proposal to impose competition enhancing regulation in the Netherlands. Consumers in the Netherlands are waiting for better offers and lower prices for broadcasting services."
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes added: "Regulating analogue RTV should not have the effect of postponing the move towards digitalisation. For that reason, the Dutch regulator should ensure that the resale obligation of analogue RTV programmes is removed as soon as possible".
In the Netherlands, some 80% of households receive their radio and TV services from cable operators. Alternative platforms such as satellite, digital terrestrial, DSL and fibre have not managed to gain a strong foothold in the Netherlands. Digital terrestrial TV and satellite TV capture close to 10% of market share whereas IP-TV (digital TV over the internet) has a mere 1% market share. With OPTA's regulatory measure alternative platforms should be able to take up analogue transmission over the cable platform and further develop their own digital offers.
The Commission therefore, in its letter with comments published today, clears OPTA's proposal to open up the cable networks to increase competition in the Dutch broadcasting market. The Commission took into account that at present the Dutch RTV market is characterised by the importance of analogue RTV signals, provided by strong cable infrastructures, together having nationwide coverage. At the same time, the Commission asks the regulator to ensure that analogue RTV transmission is not unnecessarily prolonged, as this could hamper efficient investments in digital infrastructures and the development of innovative services. The Commission also invites the regulator to implement the resale obligation as well as the detailed terms and conditions thereof, in the shortest delay possible so as to swiftly generate a market structure that is more prone to competitive dynamics. Once such a structure has been achieved, the proposed obligation should be withdrawn as soon as possible.
On 9 January 2009, OPTA notified the Commission, as required by Article 7 of the EU Framework Directive, of a draft decision on the market for wholesale broadcasting transmission services in the Netherlands.
The Dutch broadcasting market structure diverges from most of the other EU Member States as cable networks in the Netherlands are the most concentrated grid systems providing a comprehensive offer of analogue RTV-signals.
OPTA found that four main cable operators (i.e. Ziggo, UPC, Delta and CAIW) have dominant positions in Dutch broadcasting markets and proposed to impose regulatory remedies on them. However, only the two largest cable operators (i.e. Ziggo and UPC) are obliged to grant access (based on regulated prices) to their networks so that alternative operators can sell the same analogue TV programmes as the former. The remaining two providers (Delta and CAIW) are subject to light-touch regulatory intervention.
The letter from the Commission to the Dutch regulator, OPTA, was sent under the "Article 7" procedure, foreseen in Article 7 of the EU telecoms rules' Framework Directive (MEMO/08/620). This procedure leaves considerable scope to national telecoms regulators on how to achieve effective competition, but requires them to notify draft regulatory measures to the Commission. Where these measures concern market definitions and analyses of whether operators have significant market power, the Commission has the possibility to require the regulator to withdraw the measure. Where the measures concern regulatory remedies, the Commission may make comments which the national telecoms regulator should take into utmost account; a proposal to enhance the Commission's oversight over remedies is still pending in the legislative procedure with the European Parliament and the Council (IP/07/1677). The measure notified by the Dutch regulator concerns the second round market review of wholesale broadcasting transmission services in the Netherlands.
The Commission letter will be made available at: