The digital dividend and its consequences on the French institutional framework

Paris, 29 November 2006

ARCEP wishes to clarify a number of points in response to the less-than-complete information published this morning in the national daily press regarding Paul Champsaur’ speech, given on 28 November at the “Convergence numérique, convergence juridique” colloquium organised by the Council of State.

The current framework, created under the Law of 9 July 2004, already takes convergence into account by separating the regulation of networks (which is assigned to ARCEP) from the regulation of audiovisual content services (which is assigned to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel). The CSA regulates audiovisual content regardless of their broadcast medium, while ARCEP is responsible for regulating networks without regard to the content they carry. The regulation culture and objectives assigned to ARCEP and the CSA are profoundly different. ARCEP is an economic and competition regulator, whereas CSA is a regulator which "protects public liberties and social ties”.

Still, while this principle has been applied successfully for wired networks, we are now discovering its limits when it comes to wireless networks. The Law of July 2004 did not specifically address the question of the renewal of civil radio spectrum management, as a consequence of digitisation.

The European Commission has launched a revision process of the “telecoms packet” directives of 2002. In early 2007, it should be able to propose new directives to the Parliament and Council which would then be applicable in 2009. One of the key issues for this revision is the reform of radio spectrum management: how to best manage and use the spectrum in order to facilitate the development of the economy.

In its notices on the subject, the European Commission has insisted on the need to adopt a more liberal and flexible approach to frequency resource management (technological neutrality, neutrality of services, general authorisation, etc.), in phase with the economic functioning of the market, and which is better coordinated at the European level (creation of a European frequency agency, a European regulator, etc.).

In his speech, Paul Champsaur presented a non-exhaustive list of options which are foreseeable at this stage.

If, in fine, a harmonised digital dividend is defined at the Community level which would identify the area reserved for converging services, subject to economic and competitive management, then a revision of the existing institutional organisation would not be necessary. In particular, the management of frequencies exclusively allocated to audiovisual services would not have to be modified.

If, on the other hand, the Commission’s proposals were to lead to general spectrum management, then the question of a possible rapprochement of the institutions responsible for managing civil frequencies (ANFR, CSA, ARCEP) in France would have to be raised, in a context of strengthened European coordination.

In any case, the missions of maintaining pluralism, supporting audiovisual creation and protecting young audiences, which are performed by the CSA, and which are more extensive in France than in other European countries, will have to be maintained, or even strengthened, in order to go along with these possible changes at the Community level.