3 Questions to Andrus Ansip, Vice President of the European Commission
Per Strömbäck: According to the Eurobarometer, 75% of users have not tried their services in a different member states. How important is portability of services?
Andrus Ansip: If you look more closely at the figures, you can notice that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most likely to have tried to access content cross-border, they are almost one in five.
This shows that a demand for cross-border access to legal content exists, and that, more importantly, it is expected to grow in line with the younger generations’ consumer behaviour and as the market flourishes. Only in 2013 spending on digital subscriptions increased by 147%.
The survey provides further evidence: almost one in three Europeans who currently do not have an online content subscription consider cross-border portability as an important factor in deciding whether to take one. This percentage goes up to 65% in the case of young consumers.
According to the same Eurobarometer, 40% of people who have tried to use their online content subscription abroad faced problems. In other words, people, whose subscription at home allows them to watch videos, listen to music, read e-books or play games, may not have access to their preferred content when traveling abroad. This failure rate is too high to ignore. This is why we put forward new rules. We want to ensure the portability of content across borders. People who legally buy content – films, books, football matches, TV series – must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe.
It is particularly important to act: if the EU does not agree swiftly on a legal solution to help content service providers offer cross-border portability, many users might be tempted to resort to technological workarounds like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access content across borders. I really hope that the European Parliament and EU Member States will adopt our proposal quickly.
PS: The press release talks about 7 Million jobs supported by copyrights, but those businesses have been critical of the policy proposals so far. How will this copyright policy support jobs?
AA: There were serious concerns before we presented our Digital Single Market Strategy in May. Questions were raised about the content of our plans regarding the modernisation of EU copyright rules. Copyright is essential for creation and innovation. It is normal that adapting rules that have been in place for more than 10 years is a sensitive and controversial issue. But it is necessary to ensure our legislation is fit for the digital age, many people in the European film industry recognise this fact. We need a modern EU copyright framework if we want Europe to make the most of digital opportunities, and secure future growth and jobs. I trust that filmmakers’ fears were allayed when we detailed our objectives in May: we made it clear that we wanted to strengthen the creative industry, to help authors reach new audiences, new markets and benefit from new opportunities.
We made it clear that we wanted to strengthen the creative industry
We deepened our approach yesterday, with an action plan. How will we support the creative sector? We will facilitate legal access to content across borders, to strengthen cultural diversity and provide more opportunities for the creative sector. We will work on a better enforcement of rights and on measures to combat piracy. We also aim for a fairer remuneration of rights with the participation of all players in the value chain. We need to find the most appropriate way to promote European works, particularly online. We are looking into efficient ways to promote European audiovisual works on video-on-demand services. Our action plan foresees the development of innovative tools, such as a “European aggregator” of online search portals and “licencing hubs” to foster the distribution of films which are only available in a few Member States.
This will be achieved with the support of our Creative Europe programme. It has a budget of €1.46 billion until 2020, half of which supports the European audiovisual sector, for the development, distribution and promotion of works. It also supports the training of young creators. This is essential.
Did you know that 62% of Europeans only watch films or series that have either audio or subtitles in their country’s language(s)? Subtitling and dubbing represent a major challenge for the circulation of audiovisual works within Europe. We want to promote more efficient public funding to develop subtitling and dubbing. These are some examples of how we will support the creative sector, and ultimately jobs.
PS: Is the Commission not overstating the similarities between roaming and portability of media services? The first is about traffic charges, the second about content.
AA: Well, there are actually many similarities and complementarities between these two European initiatives.
Ending roaming charges and allowing Europeans to travel with their favourite online content are two concrete improvements in the daily life of people. This is about real changes. This is also about breaking down barriers, and overcoming borders, in a Digital Single Market. These two projects put forward by the European Commission go in the same direction. At the same time, they reinforce each other.
It is no secret that Europeans travel more and more, and that they use their mobile devices to access the internet on the move. More than half of Europeans, more than 80% of the youngest ones, use their smartphones, tablets or laptops to access the internet. But as you know, they might be afraid of doing so when they are in another EU country, because they are punished on their bills with roaming charges. When, in 2017, they will pay the same price to access the internet on their mobile devices in another EU country as they do at home, they will be able to access more content, and will want to access the same content as they do at home. This is where cross-border portability comes in. We want to allow them to do so. I really count on the support of the European Parliament and EU Member States to make this happen. So that 2017 can really be a great year for European consumers!