back to article EU geo-blocking: Ansip's crusade liable to disappear through 'unjustifiable' loophole

Europe’s digital single market proposals encapsulate many of the EU’s problems in one handy document. The intentions are noble, but the utopian “solutions” are clumsy and inept, leaving Eurocrats attempting to brute-force something that people don’t want onto a diverse and disparate collection of countries. Sound familiar? It …

  1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  2. h3

    There should be no loopholes at all.

    The proper single market should be buy it wherever you want in the EU and consume it wherever you want. (Should apply to everything physical or digital and to both consumers and companies alike).

    As it stands all the things that would benefit the consumer most are excluded.

    (Alcohol / Tobacco and things like this).

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: There should be no loopholes at all.

      Like the USA?

  3. User McUser

    Hang on a sec...

    the BBC would need to introduce an EU-wide authentication scheme to implement portability. This means that you’d need to login whenever iPlayer detected you were accessing the service from a non-UK network, which would then run your details against the TV Licensing database to check you’d pay the telly tax back at home.

    Doesn't iPlayer do that already? Or can just anybody with an IP address in the UK watch all the BBC TV they like for free?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't wait for the Portugese champagne

    BTW, what's the name of the English bar with the Greek satellite receiver?

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  6. Daggerchild Silver badge
    Devil

    Bedfellows

    the BBC would need to introduce an EU-wide authentication scheme to implement portability
    I'm sure Google would be *more* than happy to offer them G+ :)

    1. Number6

      Re: Hang on a sec...

      If you can come up with an IP address assigned to the UK then you can watch BBC iPlayer for free wherever you are in the world. This is what VPNs can do for you.

      Conversely, if you're sat in the UK office of a company with multinational presence that uses internal VPNs, it is possible that the IP address you present to the BBC is assigned to another country and you're stuck with the bbc.com international site (with its adverts) and problems accessing iPlayer.

      I've experienced both situations.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Hang on a sec...

        The second scenario has arisen, in the past, within the BBC itself: when it sold BBC Technology to Siemens, it was impossible for ex-BBC Siemens employees, even those like me who were working on iPlayer, to see the external UK view of the site since Siemens' IT was routed through Germany.

        Easily solved, of course, but annoying.

        Though as previously stated, the desire is less within the BBC to restrict viewers to the UK than the requirements of the rights holders, particularly for live sports and music events but not only them, who get all soggy and hard to light over territoriality and repeats.

  7. Mage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Sorry

    But the analysis of the wafer thin margins due to diverse languages is one tiny bit of the issue.

    It's USA / Sport / Big Corporations determination to squeeze as much as possible is the biggest problem.

    Sky and Hollywood & Co. are a major issue.

    Sky certainly should not be allowed to be a pay TV platform (in many countries) AND ALSO have control of Pay TV channels. They must divest Sky1, Sky Sports and Sky News etc, or be a content provider and divest of the Satellite Pay TV platforms.

    They should also be forced to supply CAMs for TVs and satellite boxes rather that foist their proprietary box which doesn't work properly for non-Sky EPG channels and is crippled for FTA without a sub. They are effectively a cable TV via dish. Outside of urban areas in UK & Ireland they have a Pay TV monopoly.

    As for the BBC? Much of their geo blocking (even to force block of UK people from non-UK BBC Web content and vice versa, just regular articles) doesn't even make commercial or "rights holder" sense.

    Yes the so far proposed ideas are a nonsense. But certain sectors are determined to ignore the common market. Books, DVD, CD, BluRay is more or less one market. So the "small" language media content source argument is somehow faulty.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Sorry

      "Sky certainly should not be allowed to be a pay TV platform (in many countries) AND ALSO have control of Pay TV channels. They must divest Sky1, Sky Sports and Sky News etc, or be a content provider and divest of the Satellite Pay TV platforms."

      I think beer should be free, and benefits the population enormously. That doesn't mean its going to happen.

      Europe isn't the USA, Europeans aren't going to abandon 40 languages for slacker English, and have the same income across the EU. Well, at least not overnight. So in the mean time, we can expect that attempts to coerce a single market into existence by dictating the terms of trade that result in harm, are going to meet resistance.

      Ansip didn't spend any time listening to small indies, but took what the soap-dodgers told him on trust.

      If you think that is weird, check out the stuff about how the cloud makes us E400bn richer ... just like that.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Sorry

        > Sky certainly should not be allowed to be a pay TV platform (in many countries) AND ALSO have control of Pay TV channels. They must divest Sky1, Sky Sports and Sky News etc, or be a content provider and divest of the Satellite Pay TV platforms.

        > I think beer should be free, and benefits the population enormously. That doesn't mean its going to happen.

        I think you missed the point - no-one is calling for anything to be free, so your comeback isn't comparing apples with apples.

        FWIW, I agree that Sky shouldn't be allowed the degree of vertical integration it has - it's got a de-facto monopoly of pay-TV for large swathes of (at least) the UK and (ab)uses that power to force things to it's way. As Mage points out, they control the distribution, the EPG, the STBs, and do their own content/channels - that's one hell of a cliff to climb for any would be competitor.

        Basically, Sky can veto any competing content it feels it can get away with keeping off it's system. If the BBC or the group of companies making up ITV owned the Freeview transmission system and actively used that control to make sure their own output had an unfair advantage over anyone else then there's be a outcry.

        So yes, I do not think Sky (or anyone else with that much market power) should be allowed such vertical integration - the "carrier" and the "content" should be separate and contract with each other at arms length, with a suitable regulator able to see that no preferential deals are going on.

        But on one point you are correct - nothing is going to change. Sky will carry on gouging customers and using it's size to keep it's dominance. And the authorities will do SFA about it.

        1. Greg 16

          Re: Sorry

          "As Mage points out, they control the distribution, the EPG, the STBs, and do their own content/channels - that's one hell of a cliff to climb for any would be competitor."

          That was one hell of a cliff to climb for Sky as well. Same with Virgin media. It's also the same cliff that BT is currently climbing. Anyone else with pockets deep enough is free to do the same.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry

      The problem that the commish has is not unique to Estonia, and if he could have "fixed it with a few phone calls" then he is lucky - unfortunately it probably isn't that simple. It happens that I like to watch bits of Dutch TV (I know, I know, it is only few bits) but whilst I can see some of it via the Dutch version of "IPlayer", it is in erm.. "much reduced" (i.e. s**t) resolution. Also, given a sliver of a reason (usually some sport involved), the whole program will be blocked.

      All Dutch (and by accounts Estonian) TV requires a subscription, but it is nearly impossible to obtain such a thing unless one has an IP and a physical (in country) address that geolocates there and a local bank account. Even with these things (maybe via VPNs), one still cannot get full resolution TV - but it will still cost EUR 7.50 / month. For this sum you get the "privilege" of watching a low-res (news) program that happens to have some sport in it at the end or some old English language programs or films that are on their second repeat over here - in the same low resolution as Uitzendinggemist.nl (now www.npo.nl).

      What expats want is to be able to pay a sub to someone to access the programs in the same way as the locals do - without all the unnecessary b****ck ache imposed by "rights holders". No expat (already used to paying a sub) is asking to get it for free - just to be able to get what (s)he is already paying for anyway - at full resolution. That is the problem that the commish is trying to solve.

  8. ScissorHands
    Stop

    Reality has a strong non-libertarian bias...

    As someone that works in the audiovisual trenches, I can assure you that the current system is invaluable for all the niche cultures/language communities that do not have a global footprint. Per-territory sales make up a very large amount of the budget of a Polish film, for example.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Reality has a strong non-libertarian bias...

      Exactly how does a single market affect that?

      Someone Polish in Ireland or UK can buy Polish DVDs & CDs & Polish food.

      They can install a dish and take out a sub to Cyfra

      I can watch/listen FTA Polish, German, French, UK TV /Radio via satellite. At night get UK Radio, Daytime Five Live MW, R.Wales MW, and R4LW. All in Mid-West of Ireland.

      The issue seems to be Pay TV services artificially limited.

      But even outside of EU, "regionalisation" encryption of DVD, Blu Ray and Games is greed and laziness. Inside or outside EU It's nothing to do with protecting niche producers / languages / cultures.

      1. browntomatoes

        Re: Reality has a strong non-libertarian bias...

        Regional pricing could be looked at as an implicit subsidy which runs from richer countries to poorer ones. Without it, the economically logical thing to do for companies selling in both territories at the same/similar prices would likely be to set a revenue maximising price somewhere in the middle of the two - i.e. a price cut for those in rich countries but an increase for those in poorer countries. This would most likely result in less revenue for producers than a system where regional pricing is in place, which explains why they are opposed. After all, in an ideal world, given their product has almost no variable costs to produce, they'd like to offer a different price to every single customer based on the maximum that customer would be willing to pay; this doesn't mean that the rules of the market should be rigged to make it easy for them to do this, since that is economically a bad thing.

        The big problem is that if regional pricing were abolished, the resulting price cut for those in rich countries would likely be smaller/less noticed than the concomitant increase in poorer countries. The EU commissioner has simply (somewhat belatedly) noticed that this is rather poor politics. Thus the real opposition has nothing to do with niche languages/cultures (the market for local content would arguably benefit in many areas due to an increase in the price of foreign content if geographical pricing differences were lifted), and everything to do with being blamed for increasing the price of some people's pay TV quite a lot.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Reality has a strong non-libertarian bias...

      the current system is invaluable for all the niche cultures/language communities that do not have a global footprint

      blue color is blue, ok?

      per-territory sales make up a very large amount of the budget of a Polish film, for example

      Color me surprised (not really).

      "Geoblocking" seems to be all about interdicting customers that you don't have in the first place. If it were circumvented/interdicted, would all of yuropean culture meltd own into a soggy heap of fast food culture? A likely story.

  9. xylifyx

    Geoblocking is friction on the cultural exchange between EU countries and makes the borders stay whereas the EU wants borders to blur. That is perfectly reasonable when you want a single european labor market. Why shouldn't you be able to watch your favorite show in your favorite language or subtitles if you moved from one part of the EU to the other. This is EU classic at its best. Keep it up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So what's wrong with that (apart from clashing with the your UKIPian view of the world)?

      1. Greg 16

        I think you've totally misunderstood him and that he is in fact a Europhilian.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cultural identity

    Geo-blocking seems to be either US beneficial, saving your competition from getting too big, or nationalistically short sighted.

    I may not understand a lot of media Poland produces, but their media does stand a better chance of a wider audience by being broadcast anywhere in the EU via the web. They may even produce something worth watching (Read: not "reality TV").

    I think it would also bring a greater understanding between all of our neighboring nations.

    Downside? Content providers will need to ensure they comply across the EU, instead of using it as an excuse to charge twice the the same item.

  11. Keven E.

    Laws shmaws

    "Price discrimination between US states may also, unless justified, be illegal under federal law which is fairly simple to enforce."

    The "dollar menu" at a local fastfood joint on the west side actually list everything for .99. Downtown, however, it's still called a "dollar menu" but apparently the dollar is worth less there cause it'll cost you $1.69 for the same item, served quicker without a place to sit during the lunch rush.

    Justified? Cost of doing business? Implicit subsidy? Bullpuckets. All profits go into the corporate pool... these aren't "franchised" locations.

    I'd like some Euro fries with my US DVD, please.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Laws shmaws

      Local fast food joints are, well, local. Usually they are franchises and probably can set prices however they want, possibly within limits. That would be true as well for stores owned by a national corporation. WE generally do not have prices set by governments, although overly aggressive price competition sometimes will draw the attention of antitrust agents (or be pointed out to them by aggrieved competitors.) Price differentials between states for national vendors probably is not illegal, but would not sell very well. Any such differential normally would be expressed in the sometimes exorbitant shipping and handling fees.

  12. agamemnus

    Just because a company can price discriminate by pricing differently across regions (or worse, geoblocking), and that is in its short-term interest, does not mean it is in the interest of the EU or consumers.

    It is perfectly justifiable from the company's perspective to extract as much wealth from its customers as possible. From the customers' perspective, it obviously is not. To prevent companies from doing so is not to attempt a misguided "utopia", but simply to protect customers.

    It is arguable whether it is in the interest of global growth to allow companies to engage in price discrimination based on geographic location where transportation cost is not a factor. The extra money extracted by such companies could have been put back into the economy into via the consumer spending it on something else. Maybe two movies are made instead of one. Is that not beneficial to the economy? I think it is.

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