Brussels, 17 July 2008
The European Commission has approved a EUR 150 million capital injection for the French public-television holding company, France Télévisions. The measure aims to enable the public channels to fulfil their general-interest mission in 2008 by offsetting the reduction in commercial revenues that followed the announcement that advertising would eventually be banned on such channels. The Commission has taken the view that the capital injection was justified given the net costs that these specific missions involve and the French authorities' commitments regarding control of the funds. This decision is unrelated to current discussions on possible new types of public financing for France Télévisions, which will have to be notified at a later date to the Commission.
Commissioner Neelie Kroes stated: "I am closely following developments on the French audiovisual market and the initiatives aimed at refocusing France Télévisions and enhance its ability to carry out the public-service missions to which French and European citizens, just like the Commission, are justifiably attached. The EUR 150 million capital injection should enable France Télévisions to fulfil its current tasks while the reform measures are under discussion".
The project to inject capital into France Télévisions was notified to the Commission under the terms of the EC Treaty rules governing the monitoring of state aid. At the end of its investigation, the Commission concluded that the distortions caused by providing public financing for certain channels only, excluding other private operators, were counterbalanced by the costs, borne by France Télévisions' channels, of providing a public service of general interest.
These missions are specific to France Télévisions, established by law and translated into the specifications and the contract concluded between the French government and France Télévisions as regards objectives and means. In particular, the missions encourage ambitious, quality programming to promote culture, diversity of opinion, democratic debate and social diversity. The drop in advertising revenues that immediately followed the announcement of the eventual banning of publicity on public channels weakened France Télévisions' short-term financial stability. Particularly in the public audiovisual sector, the Commission takes account of the Member States' prerogative to decide on the best way to finance their public service obligations, provided that there is no overcompensation that could be used to finance the operator's commercial activities. The commitments and assurances provided by France in this regard enabled the Commission to conclude that this was not the case with the capital injection in question.
Once they have been identified, any new sources of public financing for France Télévisions as part of the renewed focus on its public service missions will have to be reported to and examined by the Commission.
The non-confidential version of today's decision will be made available under case number N279/2008 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. The online newsletter, "State aid Weekly e-News", lists the latest decisions on state aid published in the Official Journal and on the website.