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The WIPO Broadcast Treaty: What Value for (Public Service) Radio Broadcasters?

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


4th European Communication Conference, ECREA 2012, Istanbul, Turkey (2012)


The WIPO has been working on a proposed Treaty for the Protection of Broadcasting for more than a decade. After a long delay and the completion of commissioned research on the problem and impact of signal piracy, interest in passing a revised Treaty resurfaced. At the time of the last major revision, there had been a number of scholarly studies and NGO position papers that questioned whether treaty would be able to eliminate signal piracy and generate significant new revenue streams for broadcasters, and at what cost to the greater public and social welfare.
Almost all of that discussion has focused on the consideration of the implications for television (video) broadcast content and signals, arguably the more valuable of the various types of broadcast signals. There has been little specific consideration of the implications for radio broadcasting generally, and public service radio broadcasting in particular. Public service, and other noncommercial, radio broadcasting often serves functions well beyond revenue maximization, functions that generally involve seeking to maximize the availability and use of broadcast signals and content. Since many of the treaty provisions focus on being able to limit access and use, they would appear to be in conflict with public service goals and mandates.
This paper will address the implications of the proposed WIPO Broadcast Treaty for public service radio broadcasting, other noncommercial forms of radio broadcasting, as well as commercial radio broadcasting. Using a law & economics / media economics perspective, we will consider how each major provision is likely to impact on radio markets, audience behaviors, and radio broadcaster operations, with specific focus on implications regarding the level of signal piracy, the potential to generate additional revenues, and most critically, the ability of public service and other radio broadcasters to achieve their public service, public welfare, and social welfare goals. Should there be any further revisions or action regarding the Treaty prior to the conference data, we’ll update the study to reflect the most recent versions.