Discussion Papers

Annette Hillebrand

Zwischen Rundfunk und Telekommunikation: Entwicklungsperspektiven und regulatorische Implikationen von Webcasting
Nr. 211 / Dezember 2000

Summary

The term webcasting - emerging from World Wide Web and Broadcasting - describes the possibility to download audio and video information via the Internet. Content providers increasingly use this option to enhance their websites by including video clips, music programmes or recent news channels. More and more broadcasters offer parts of their programmes online. The number of radio stations transmitting solely over the Internet adds up to several hundreds.

Because of the early diffusion stages of this new technology there have been hardly any investigations carried out on the technical level of webcasting services, the user potential, the implications from the providers´ point of view and related regulatory questions. This study deals with the development of webcasting, its future prospects and regulatory issues.

The main impediments, at the moment, to the mass dissemination of webcasting lie in the technical restrictions of data compression technology and in insufficient bandwidth in the local loop. For audio downloads at least, compression technology seems to offer a temporary solution. With regard to video quality of TV-standard considerable improvements are expected.

At the moment for all concerned webcasting is rather experimental. First of all it exploits the content in the form of versioning, and it completes the media`s own product cooperation strategy. Secondly, it is used to distribute content without regional restrictions and to address customers individually. Because of the high costs of mass distribution and its unfavourable cost structure webcasting is best described as a complement and not a substitute for traditional broadcasting media. In addition, there has been insufficient empirical research on webcasting users and their habits.

From a regulatory point of view webcasting has not yet the same status as broadcasting. Today webcasting lacks the main criteria applied to broadcasting like offering services to the general public, suggestive power or real-time transmission. In the opinion of broadcasting experts the German Teledienstegesetz (Teleservices Act) and the Mediendienste-Staatsvertrag (Interstate Agreement on Media Services) provide sufficient regulation and at the same time room for innovation. Because of the less strict regulation it seems likely that the further diffusion and adoption of webcasting will proceed in spite of technical restrictions. Furthermore, because of the convergence phenomenon webcasting raises the question of how the future regulation in the area of conflict between telecommunications and broadcasting has to be shaped. This will become more and more urgent.

Only German language version available.

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