The European Commission this week urged the continent’s pay-TV operators to make their offerings available to other EU nations beyond the boundaries of the transmitting nation.

Currently satellite and cable companies, such as Vivendi’s French unit Canal Plus and Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB in the UK, encode their signals so they cannot be received without an appropriate smartcard at the receiving end.

These smartcards are available only to subscribers in the country of origin, leading to widescale electronic piracy, the EC claims. In a new report the commission observes: “[Within the EU internal market] citizens cannot obtain legitimate access to protected pay-TV services. These kinds of business practices promote piracy.”

According to the EC, piracy has risen fivefold since 1996 – although for reasons best known to itself it declines to quote actual numbers.

“Most broadcasters do not own the intellectual property rights to content such as sports or films outside their home country,” explained a European TV company executive. Which, of course, hands the maximization of TV rights revenues on a plate to rightsholders such as soccer governing body UEFA.

The EC’s report on the issue is seen locally as a sign the Brussels authorities are prepared to pass binding legislation if pay-TV operators continue to restrict their offering to a single member state.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff