The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is the world’s leading alliance of public service media. Established in 1950, the organisation is a successor to the International Broadcasting Union (IBU), which was founded in 1925. The EBU consists of 116 member organisations from 56 countries and its aim is to secure a sustainable future for public service media and help them keep up with technological developments. The organisation operates the Eurovision and Euroradio services
The EBU supports digital transformation among its members through capacity development, promoting and making use of digital channels, raising awareness of cybersecurity risks, and leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and data. Through its Digital Transformation Initiative, the EBU aims to help its members understand the challenges and opportunities posed by the digital age and transform their organisations accordingly.
Digital policy issues
- Telecommunications infrastructure
In addition to traditional broadcasting networks – terrestrial, cable, or satellite – media service providers are starting to use content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure an increased quality of experience (QoE) for their users. In this context, the EBU has set up a Project Group to investigate requirements for a multi-CDN environment (a technical infrastructure able to switch between different connected CDNs dynamically). This Project Group is also looking into the use of big data analytics to monitor QoE. In addition, the EBU maintains its Strategic Programme on Spectrum Management and Regulation, which is focused on helping members work together to ensure that the radio spectrum is efficiently managed and used.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the EBU issued a recommendation to help public service media organisations avoid potential internet congestion caused by greater media consumption and by increased reliance on online collaboration tools.
- Digital standards
Since its inception in 1950, the EBU has been mandated by its members to contribute to standardisation work in all technological fields related to media. This work ranges from TV and radio production equipment to the new broadcasting standards for transmission. This mandate has been naturally extended over the years to the field of mobile technologies, as well as online production and distribution.
The current digital video standard (DVB) and digital radio standards (DAB, DNS) have all been tested by and agreed upon within the EBU by the broadcasting community, before being exported to other standardization bodies (such as the ITU, ETSI, IEEE, etc.).
The EBU has led the development of hybrid radio technologies such as RadioDNS, which is designed for EBU broadcasters to start testing and experimenting without having to deploy the necessary infrastructure themselves.
The organisation has included mobile technologies and standards among the priorities of its Strategic Programme on Future Distribution Strategies and has set up a Mobile Technologies and Standards Group, which ‘seeks to build technical competence within the EBU community in the domain of the current and future mobile technologies, including 4G/LTE and 5G.’ The group undertakes technical studies of 4G and 5G and their standardisation roadmaps, and formulates and co-ordinates EBU positions on mobile standardisation issues.
In 2019, the EBU launched a 5MAG group which brings together different actors to foster the development and deployment of technologies of strategic importance to the media industry.
- Artificial intelligence
In 2015, the EBU launched its AI and Data Initiative aimed at helping its members leverage the potential of AI and data. The EBU’s AI and Data Group defines the strategy and priorities of the AI and Data Initiative to support members’ data usage and data-driven strategies.
In 2019, the EBU news department published its first report on best practices for AI applications in the field of journalism. The report is publicly available and aims to help improve AI-based solutions in order to serve the public interest and respect human rights.
One of best examples of the EBU’s use of AI is its PEACH (Personalization for EACH) initiative, which has brought together a number of public broadcasters to develop AI-powered tools to deliver the right content to the right audience in accordance with current data protection regulations.
- Network neutrality
The EBU’s work in the field of net neutrality focuses on assisting its members in co-ordinating their positions on broadband network neutrality. To this end, it provides expertise and facilitates initiatives and the drafting of documents concerning net neutrality at the EU level. The EBU also encourages its members to exchange experiences from the national level. Net neutrality is addressed as part of the EBU’s Strategic Programme on Broadcaster Internet Services. Net neutrality is seen as a key principle for public service broadcasters to support and advocate for, as it ensures their services are equally accessible by all Internet users. A large part of this activity is now evolving into AI.
- Cybercrime and network security
The EBU has developed a Strategic Programme on Media Cyber Security, aimed mainly at raising awareness among its members of the increasing cybersecurity risks and threats to broadcasting. This initiative also provides a platform for its members to exchange information on security incidents (e.g. phishing campaigns, targeted malware attacks, etc.), as well as on lessons learnt, projects, and internal procedures. A dedicated working group is focused on defining information security best practices for broadcast companies. The EBU organises an annual Media Cybersecurity Forum, which brings together manufacturers, service providers, and media companies to discuss security issues in the media domain.
- Convergence and OTT
In an environment increasingly characterised by digital convergence, the EBU is working on identifying viable investment solutions for over-the-top (OTT) services. The organisation has a Digital Media Steering Committee, focused on ‘defining the role of public service media in the digital era, with a special focus on how to interact with big digital companies.’ It also develops a bi-annual roadmap for technology and innovation activities and has a dedicated Project Group on OTT services.
In addition, there is an intersectoral group composed by EBU’s members and its staff that exchanges best practices for relations between Internet platforms and broadcasters.
During the COVID-19 crisis, a co-ordinated effort by the technical distribution experts of the EBU and its members monitored the state of the global broadband network to help avoid surcharges due to the increased consumption of on-demand programmes.
- Capacity development
Most of the EBU’s activities are aimed at increasing the capacity of its members to address challenges and embrace opportunities brought about by the digital age. To that end, through its Digital Transformation Initiative, the EBU has developed a number of member support services, such as its expert community network that gathers over 200 experts from across its membership, and a digital knowledge hub with a repository of analyses and best practices. The EBU also offers a wide range of workshops and other sessions aimed at creating awareness about the digital transformation of the public service media, developing peer-to-peer assessment of members’ digital maturity, and initiating tailored interventions based on members’ needs.