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EC to probe 3G content shutout

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EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is to investigate if new media firms are being shut out from delivering valuable content to users.

In comments delivered in Brussels at a workshop on access to quality audiovisual content in new media, Monti said the European Commission would keep a close eye on developments. The move comes amid concern from new media providers - such as mobile content and video-on-demand providers - who say that traditional media companies are shutting them out.

3G mobile network operators, for example, say they have had difficulty licensing video clips for football matches, because traditional media firms act to make the delivery of such video to mobile devices difficult, if not impossible. Companies that deliver movies over high-speed wired data networks, so-called video-on-demand providers, report similar problems as video rental giants and television incumbents block their attempts to license films.

In January, the Commission launched a probe which sought to determine if 3G mobile operators had indeed been shut out from the football broadcasting sector. Now, a second, more expansive investigation will examine the sale of similar rights to Internet operators.

"Availability of attractive content - notably sports (football) rights but also music, film rights and anything that will be considered as an attractive content in the future - will continue to be kept under close scrutiny using all the powerful legal instruments that the recent modernisation of the anti-trust rules has put at our disposal," Monti said.

Monti noted that some media companies, mainly incumbent free-to-air or pay-TV broadcasters, acquire rights for the delivery of some content over the Internet or mobile phones - areas in which they do not operate. "Our review, which focuses on the availability of rights to major sport events, notably football, has so far shown a generally negative attitude by the relevant players towards making premium content available for delivery over platforms different from the traditional ones."

The Competition boss acknowledged that some incumbent media companies may see new media operators as a threat to their revenues, but the majority of the Commissioner's comments indicated that the EU would not allow new media companies to be shut out.

© ENN

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