Brussels, 14 July 2004
The European Commission decided today to initiate a formal investigation procedure into the financing of a digital terrestrial television network (DVB-T) in Sweden. This DVB-T network is operated by Teracom AB. Following complaints, the Commission assessed the financing of the network’s rollout. At this stage, the Commission cannot exclude that the financing involves state aid. The opening of this formal investigation procedure gives the Swedish government and interested parties an opportunity to comment on the Commission’s preliminary findings. The opening of this procedure does however not prejudice the final outcome of this case.
Sweden decided in 1999 to deploy a digital terrestrial television network (DVB-T) covering more than 90 percent of national territory. Since then, this network has been rolled out and exploited by Teracom AB which is a state owned company. Teracom’s subsidiaries provide ancillary services for digital television.
The public broadcaster SVT is obliged by law to use the DVB-T network provided by Teracom and to pay Teracom a fee for the transmission of its television programs. The total payments made by SVT to Teracom seem to be higher than the actual transmission costs. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that Teracom has been aided indirectly through SVT. In addition, the Swedish authorities have directly granted guarantees and provided a capital injection to Teracom. These measures seem to involve an aid to Teracom. The amount of aid is difficult to estimate but could amount to several million euros.
In spite of the extensive exchange of information between Sweden and the Commission, the doubts of the Commission could not be clarified. The Commission has therefore decided to open a formal investigation procedure.
The Commission received complaints from satellite providers regarding the financing of the DVB-T network in Sweden. Based on these complaints, the Commission requested information from the Swedish authorities.
This and the similar decision taken with respect to the financing of a DVB-T network in Germany today are the first probes into the financing of digital terrestrial television.
Many Member States foresee a switchover from analogue to terrestrial television in the next ten years. It is important however that such a switchover is in line with the policy line stated in the Communication by the Commission about the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting. Member State policy interventions should be transparent, justified and proportionate. Member State policy interventions should also be non-discriminatory and technologically neutral.
 Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting (from digital 'switchover' to analogue 'switch-off'), COM/2003/0541 final