D-Day for Oettinger (D is for Digital)

Today is the big one. SAA and anyone else in the audiovisual sector is now under no doubt of which hearing they need to follow. Günther Oettinger.

The current German Commissioner for energy has been given the role of Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. Under the supervision of Vice-President Ansip, he will be responsible for Europe’s copyright and audiovisual policies as well as the audiovisual support scheme Media.

Is this a good or bad thing? Well there are different ways of looking at it. Those who see the glass half-empty might see this as a victory for the approach of DG CNECT and their vision of copyright reform over the vision held by DG MARKT’s copyright unit. Those who see the glass half full might see this as an opportunity for the units involved to really resolve the different issues at stake internally and overcome the conflicts of which the abandoned Copyright White Paper was symptomatic.

Will he get a tough hearing? Some Green MEPs have already questioned his digital credentials and his ability to resist the lobbying efforts of the big digital players, but the general impression is that he’ll be ok.

There are already some surprises for the hearing, though. Oettinger, now in charge of copyright, will not be questioned by the Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee who deals with these issues. The main questions will come from the industry committee (on aspects linked to digital and telecommunications infrastructure) and the Culture committee (on aspects linked to Europe’s audiovisual policy).

And this is where our optimism or pessimism will begin.

He will be trying to encourage infrastructure investment from telecommunications and cable operators as well as technology manufacturers and service providers from the Commission’s grand coalition for digital growth and jobs. These same operators who want to be out of the copyright enforcement debate. Who refuse to pay retransmission royalties in certain countries across Europe. Who denounce the private copying compensation system so essential for Europe’s creators. Will Oettinger be able to resist making promises on copyright policy to guarantee investment in telecommunications infrastructure? Will the grand coalition promise him investment in European jobs in return for action on private copying levies?

We will be hoping that his answers today will reassure us that he is capable of balancing the different demands of the stakeholders in his portfolios and helping us build a bright future for European authors.