International issues

IRIS Plus 2007-2: Broadcasters' Access to Broadcasting Frequencies

Author: Nicola Wei├čenborn, Institute of European Media Law (EMR)

Published: 01/03/2007

Frequencies are as indispensable for broadcasting as letters are for language. For a long time, broadcasting frequencies were a scarce commodity, a situation which digital compression techniques are now counteracting. This is why the obligation for frequency usage to be sanctioned by state authorities is increasingly coming under the microscope. This much we know.

What many people don't know, however, is how spectrum is actually managed in different countries. What rules do countries follow when distributing this finite resource which ignores national boundaries, and how do they allocate frequencies to users? What does the transition to more efficient digital technology actually mean for the legal framework governing frequency use? Does the emergence of new radio-based systems also bring with it new approaches to spectrum management?

This IRIS plus gives a brief, illustrated overview of this subject. It describes the main technical aspects of spectrum use, European and even global co-operation aimed at creating sensible spectrum regulation and different national legal models for actual frequency allocation. It also looks at the direction in which digitisation is pushing the spectrum debate.