E VRT: Interactive television pilot in Flanders
Another problem might be, as raised by Coppens (2002), that the VRT is walking a
tightrope with its digital activities as long as its remit is not clearly defined.
Moreover, it is unclear, once the pilot phase is terminated, if and how the DHP
project will be continued. A larger scale implementation, i.e. providing all
households (with a television set) in Flanders with easy access to the Internet and
to new interactive media would require, of course, much greater investment. The
question is also how users will react if they have to pay for the hardware and for the
services. This question also arises with the for pay services that will be offered by
Belgacom, the telecom partner involved in the project.
Full deployment of the DBV T project also means that more partners, in particular
public private partnerships are needed to ensure a common open platform for
digital television in order to avoid viewers needing to have two or three different set
top boxes . The importance of open standards is recognized in this field. Just
recently, the US cable industry announced that future retail OpenCable digital set top
boxes built and sold in the US will follow the MHP middleware standard (Freed 2002).
This might drive change in the broadcasting industry, especially in relation to an EPG
that gives access to all available TV programmes. At the moment broadcasters rely
heavily on their brand and do everything possible to avoid viewers from changing
channel. With the EPG, you can just indicate which programmes you would like to
see without bothering which station they come from. This takes you away
completely from the traditional programming schedules of broadcasting . It follows
that control over the desk top box, over the local storage and over the EPG will
become strategic points of competition between players.
The publishing strategy behind the DHP project is based on the multi channel
publishing idea, i.e. produce once and publish anywhere. The multiplication of
delivery platforms as a result of increased digitization and increased availability of
wired, wireless and mobile networks should not imply a multiplication of costs. This
means that the entire production process has to be rethought. It is clear however,
that as regards organizational change, only preliminary steps are taken in that
direction today. The focus is on re using and re packing existing news content
produced by others. There is no clear indication that the different newsrooms (radio,
TV, teletext, etc.) are or will be converging in the future.
Digital technologies do not imply that the costs of content production will be reduced
drastically, but rather that the changes will be qualitative. However, the entry costs
for new, niche based TV stations are lower compared to ten or twenty years ago. TV
stations may own their transmission installations but vertical integration is no longer
Now and in the future, your costs will consist mainly of the access
fees to the different networks .
Another interesting issue is that although increased interactivity, increased choice
and increased control over broadcast TV is promised by DBV T, in reality, content is
still pushed by suppliers rather than initiated by users. The traditional content
provision model, i.e. push rather than pull, is not overturned by DBV T. The receiver
however is the set top box in stead of the viewer.
The DHP project also highlights the fact that multimedia innovation needs to be
addressed at different levels and that all levels need to be right: technologies,
applications, users, organizational change and partnerships. During the initial pilot
stages, major efforts went into getting the technology right. If ambitions are to be
achieved, however, similar or greater efforts will need to be made on the other levels.
11. See for this: Laven, 2002.