Broadband and telecom

IGF 2010 - Workshop report - How to measure communication and media in digital converging era


Final report on WORKSHOP 84

Organized by OECD, EBU/WBU, European Audiovisual Observatory chaired by Ismo Silvo (YLE)

Speakers:   Frédéric Bourassa (OECD), André Lange (EAO), Alexander Shulzycki (EBU), Jeroen Verspeek and Marija Andela (NPB), Preben Sorensen (Euralva), Antonio Granado (Lisbon University)

“Whenever market information is imperfect .., then the State can, in theory, intervene to bolster market efficiency”   Joseph Stieglitz

In a moment when the US market is near fully converged and the EU market tends to the same target (with the switch off deadline in 2012), the need for clear and transparent information of the converged market becomes a must. Not only for market forces (investors, advertisers, etc.)  but also for  public authorities and citizens. In fact there are so many important social values that need –as a precondition- to have clear data and picture of the situation of media markets, in order to be protected, preserved or stimulated, such as (just to name a few) antitrust, freedom of expression, cultural diversity, pluralism, intellectual property, protection of consumers or respect of minorities.

Currently the institutions in charge of collect data have to face some paradoxes such as:

  1. Paradox 1: the stock exchange rules on the disclosure of information are now quoted by private stockholders to discard the debate on the specific issue of transparency of the audiovisual sector
  2. Paradox 2: while Internet is supposed to facilitate the transfer of information, the asymmetry of information in the AV sector has never been so important

So, de facto, Internet is today the less transparent of all media and its data are used by all market players as a tool for propaganda and marketing.

According to André Lange (EAO) the best solution would be to create a collective obligation to provide data, so that all market players will comply with it and none of them will lose its competitive advantage deriving from knowledge.

During the workshop the main different ways to measure media have been compared. In the TV world measure is based mainly on audience rates. In the telecom world what counts is the number of subscription, the volume of communication, the turnover of the companies and so on. In the Internet world measure (apart of the turnover of the companies) is web-based, with parameters such as number of visits, reach, time spent in the navigation, or is based on panel of users, analyzing their behaviours.

Even if the tools to measure Internet are still in their first years of existence, is already possible to detect problems in this market, such as concentration. The top 50 Internet companies in the world (ranked by revenues) cover 90% of the market and the top 10, 71%. In the other two markets (TLC and broadcasting) this would be considered beyond the soil of risk of concentration. This is not (yet) the case in the Internet world, at least until Today.

Regulators, authorities need more and more this kind of information. Identify “relative markets” will become more and more relevant for their work and with the convergence, problems of defining such concept are fast rising up and becoming more and more complex.

The case of Netherlands –presented by Jeroen Verspeek (NPB) - has been examined, because considered as a very good example of mature and converged market.   Catch-up TV (UitzendingGemist) is a huge success on the broadband market and the “non-linear” audience is becoming a structural part of the audience measures. The NPB, national public broadcaster, has set up two panels to measure the use of its programmes on Internet: STIR, that is a panel of 10000 persons based on users’ habits, and Sitestat (service provided by Comscore), based on the analysis of web sites access data. The reality has shown up that site-based measures (Sitestat) and user-based measures (Stir) provide different info sometime contradictory, that need to be carefully analyzed and interpreted.

But beyond reach, time and number of visitors, convergence has also an impact on quality of media?

Antonio Granado, professor at the University of Lisbon, underlined that the arrival of the internet in the market of news meant less sources of information than before. Media owners see convergence as a way to reduce their staff and make savings. Newsrooms are now smaller than they were in the ‘90s. There is a need to measure the impact of convergence on the production of news. And this has also an impact on democracy, of which press and news in general are supposed to be the watchdog.

Also Consumers association are concerned by this lack of clear information on the market of convergence. According to Preben Sorensen, president of Euralva (the European association of TV viewers and listeners), the consumer – that many pretend today to be the king- could instead become the victim in the convergence, because of the lack of clear and transparent information. Only the regulators could set the parameters for obtaining solid data on which to base policy priorities. Last but not least, he stressed a concern about data collected by converging media, which are a lot more intrusive than the simple readership or audience rates. Viewers and listeners association want to have more information on the use of data, because there could be many implications for privacy. Finally some proposals emerged from the debate:

          Public authorities and stakeholders need to define a set of concrete basic rules to implement the transparency of the AV market and create a level playing field

          Obligations of disclosure should be defined for indicators of general interest

          Public institutions active in the data collection on the Internet, telecommunications and AV industries should have the means to better coordinate their activities and face the challenge of increased complexity

          Public bodies have a role in democratizing the access to the strategic information

So the proponents of this workshop (OECD – that provide data on telecom industry- and EAO  & EBU that provide data on audiovisual industry) decided to converge their forces  in order to tackle the problem of how measure of the industry of convergence: a problem   that is larger than their own single forces. A joint work to identify the relevant indicators of the convergence will be launched soon, open to all stakeholders that have an interest in having these data made publicly available. OECD shared its experience on the development of wireless broadband indicators and underlined that such a process can be long and should be done with a large consensus among the various stakeholders. 



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