Editorial: time to open up ITU-R meetings?

Our recent article on the JTG meeting sparked a debate in the PolicyTracker office: is the ITU-R decision-making process too secretive?
| Martin Sims

The press cannot attend most of the important ITU-R meetings, except the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Radio Conference. So the actual work of building policy and negotiating compromise is done behind closed doors.

Opinion among my colleagues was divided. ITU meetings are treaty negotiations at the governmental level – so you wouldn’t expect total openness – and furthermore companies are discussing commercially sensitive matters. Besides, some attendees will usually tell you what happened.

Our editorial meeting ended and an email arrived. Someone had read the JTG article and claimed we had been taken in by “GSMA spin”.

To write the piece we had indeed found some people who would talk to us, but some of them had an axe to grind. We cannot see the documents themselves, so we could not balance one interpretation against another.

And it’s not just the press which is blindsided: so are ordinary citizens, consumers groups and NGOs who can’t afford the ITU-R’s membership fees.

WRC decisions affect hundred of millions globally and spectrum managers often complain that the public do not recognise the importance of the field. But how can stakeholders become engaged without access to the ITU-R meetings and documents?

The ITU will hold its regular plenipotentiary this Autumn. This gives the international spectrum community the opportunity to ask itself: is this the best we can do?

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