Caroline van Weede has been managing director of Cable Europe since December 2005. Her background includes head of business intelligence department of the French telco SFR Cegetel Group and a stint as chair of GSM Europe.
First, a quick branding question: Why the shift from ECCA to Cable Europe?
The idea was to have the association reflect the dynamism of the European cable industry. The last name and logo dated from the ’70s, so it was time have a change. And we also thought that the previous name, ECCA, was not very easily understood. So we wanted something that could be more easily understood and better recognized.
What are the technical/regulatory issues of most concern to you at the level of the EU in Brussels?
The current priorities for the association and its members are activites that are going on within the European institutions relating to the review of the regulatory framework, which concerns telecoms and cable networks. To translate quickly, it’s like the Telecommunications Act, which dates from 2002, which we call directives here in Europe. What that means for us is that obviously we are watching very closely all the initiatives and changes, which will be brought to the current text.
To give you an example, we would like to avoid in the new text mandatory obligations like access to cable networks and price regulations.
Another topic that is very much on our agenda is copyright issues, in particular, the management of the rights. Obviously, we are not opposed to paying copyright, but it’s the way the rights were collected, which is very inefficient in Europe. The system is very inefficient and outdated. It’s absolutely not up to date to the modern business environment and how the delivery of content has changed over time.
There’s a specific act or directive that relates to cable, and one of our points of concern is that it is only related to cable, not other platforms. Therefore, our argument is that it places us at a competitive disadvantage, as compared to satellite and telco competitors. And another point is that it dates from 1993. So it’s also our argument that it’s not up to date for the current business environment.
Does Cable Europe have a role to play at the national level, too?
In our regular meetings, we obviously hear from our members what’s going on at the national level. For the assocation, our role is mainly to provide intelligence to our members and be a facilitator in exchanging best practices.
But we can also give lobbying support, which means that we can intervene in a national debate, by giving additional weight to national voice, and add a European voice to it. We can also act as an intermediary if there is an issue at the national level and our members want it to be raised here in Brussels. And here we think the change of our name from ECCA to Cable Europe will help to facilitate that mission.
What’s the relationship between Cable Europe and EuroCableLabs?
EuroCableLabs is a department of Cable Europe. So the relationship is very straightforward. It’s the same entity and the same members. The issues we tackle are quite different. So there are two managements in place, and separate budgets, but the same entity.
You have some background in the wireless business. How is the European cable industry positioned to participate in the mobile and wireless arenas?
We can see a move from some cable operators into that market. It works very well with the idea and strategy of these cable operators to be more a general provider of communications and entertainment services. This has happened in several markets, such as with ntl and Virgin Mobile in the UK, and other markets with the launch of mobile virtual network operations (MVNOs). It’s obviously a trend.
However, acquiring frequences is probably something that will not happen (with cable operators) in Europe, because they are not available. The U.S. has been relatively late in making 3G available.