EU: Interactive TV Standards Will Wait

The European Commission has stated that it will not make a decision on imposing interactive TV standards until the end of 2005. Currently, there are several platforms in use throughout Europe, though the Commission does not see this as a problem, instead promoting interoperability on a voluntary basis. As some of the platform proponents are competitors, it remains to be seen if this will be successful.

Whilst the Commission hopes that everyone will share and get along, they are strongly advocating the Multimedia Home Platform. MHP is currently employed by RTL in Germany.

Developing for multiple interactive TV platforms does no-one any good – content has to be rewritten and retested for every platform and each system has different capabilities. As final content has to work on all platforms it is likely to encounter, it is often as simple and demanding as possible – stifling innovation.

There are five interactive APIs in use across Europe today, deployed in 25 million set top boxes, yet the Commission does not see this as a problem:

“In view of the complexity of the technological and market environment, the very different perceptions of interoperability held by market players, and the fact that interactive digital TV has not yet taken off on a larger scale in many Member States, we felt that the digital television market should continue to develop unhindered for the present” commented Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Olli Rehn, “Digital television networks (satellite, terrestrial and cable) have the potential to offer delivery of multi-media information Society services, alongside 3G mobile and other networks, and we welcome all future investment in this important technology. We will however revisit the issue at the end of 2005 in order to see to what extent market developments have contributed to interoperability and freedom of choice for users.”

Europa Press Release

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?