November 2019

Economically Significant And A Pillar Of Democracy

Brussels, 11/20/2019

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT), Thomas Rabe gave a keynote speech in Brussels. His topics: open platforms, reliable partnerships, fair regulation. The CEO expressed his conviction that “exciting times of monumental transformation with huge opportunities” lie ahead.

“Open platforms, reliable partnerships, and fair regulation” were the three key themes of a speech Thomas Rabe recently gave in front of members of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT). The CEO of Bertelsmann and RTL Group spoke to 200 representatives from EU institutions, the media industry, trade organizations, and politics in Brussels on the occasion of the association’s 30th anniversary. In his keynote, Rabe underlined the importance of the audiovisual sector for Europe’s economy: “Commercial broadcasters invest more than 15 billion Euro in European content every year. And apart from the economic contribution, we are a pillar of our democracy by providing trusted news and information based on high editorial standards.” He cited the example of RTL Hungary, which is one of the few remaining independent sources of news in that country despite massive pressure.

In view of the digital era, in which U.S. tech companies have taken positions of unprecedented power and dominance, Rabe said it is essential for commercial broadcasters to transform themselves and build on their many strengths: “What we need is fair competition and a modern regulatory framework which reflects today’s market realities.” Specifically, the CEO referred to the fields of advertising, copyright protection, data protection, and antitrust law. Since advertising continues to be the most important source of revenue for the broadcasters’ investment into content, he said that the regulation of TV advertising is a key area of concern. And while Thomas Rabe commended the improvement made with the recently revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, he pointed out that the regulation imposed on TV is still much more restrictive than that of tech groups.

According to Rabe, effective protection of copyrights and data is particularly important for the sustainability of business models. He welcomed the latest European Copyright Directive, which obliges tech groups to take a more active approach to copyright infringements on their websites. Thomas Rabe also warned that the territoriality principle on which the current copyright law is based should not be compromised. But, as Rabe pointed out, regulation is not everything – more co-operation and partnerships between European broadcasters are also required to compete with the tech giants. He analyzed what this means in concrete terms for RTL Group, as a pan-European group: “Establishing such partnerships is part of RTL’s DNA as the first pan-European broadcasting group. Two weeks ago, we started actively presenting new partnership opportunities – all based on the philosophy of bundling the resources of European broadcasters to establish open and neutral platforms.” He added that such partnership opportunities are offered in three areas:  advertising technology, VoD technology and international advertising sales.

In closing, Rabe declared: “These are exciting times. Times of monumental transformation with huge opportunities for those who are prepared to actively shape the future. I am convinced that now more than ever, we need a strong voice in Europe here in Brussels.”