The European Commission has ruled out the imposition of compulsory technical standards such as MHP for the roll-out of interactive digital television in Europe.

The Commission has concluded that the market is best served by voluntary, industry-led standardisation initiatives. The priority is now to ensure a smooth and rapid switchover to digital television, while continuing to promote open standards and interoperability, with the use of proprietary technologies remaining subject to competition law review.

In a review of the interoperability of digital interactive television services, the Commission said that member states should continue to promote open, interoperable standards.

“I want to accelerate the take-up of digital television in Europe,” said Viviane Reding, the European Union Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “It is good news that interoperability is no longer a major obstacle for interactive TV, thanks to the growing number of technical solutions supporting it.”

The finding follows a two-year study of the market, amid lobbying from some broadcasters and operators against the imposition of a single technical standard across Europe, such as the DVB Multimedia Home Platform, MHP.

In July 2004 the Commission found that there was no clear case for mandating standards for interactive television, but indicated that this should be reviewed in 2005. However, it set up an MHP Implementation Group to look at the options for MHP.

The commission has now concluded that “It considers that the market is best served at the present time by continuing to rely on industry-led voluntary standardisation initiatives.”

In other words, it is now too late to impose a single open standard. There are over 47 million digital television receivers in use in Europe, of which about 26 million have a proprietary application program interface or API, and only about 4 million employ MHP.

The Commission will continue to promote open, interoperable standards for digital television in Europe and worldwide. It has established and funded a series of actions to promote international co-operation in research, development and standardisation for digital television. This could in the future be extended to international collaboration in implementing standards and digital television production.