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State aid: Commission consults on revised rules for state funding of public service broadcasting

European Commission - IP/08/1626   04/11/2008

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/08/1626

Brussels, 4th November 2008

State aid: Commission consults on revised rules for state funding of public service broadcasting

The European Commission has published, for public consultation, a draft Communication laying down the rules that it intends to apply to state funding of public service broadcasting. Member States and stakeholders now have the opportunity to submit their views on the proposed text. Comments should be submitted by 15 January 2009. Key issues for discussion include more flexibility for public broadcasters to meet the challenges of the new media environment, the principles underpinning the definition of the public service remit by the Member States as well as supervision of public service activities at national level. On the basis of the comments received, the Commission could adopt a modernised Broadcasting Communication in the first half of 2009. A first consultation on the general principles of the review took place between January and March 2008 (see IP/08/24).

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "I am pleased to submit the draft Broadcasting Communication for public consultation. My goal is to help stakeholders in the broadcasting sector to meet the challenges of the new media environment, allowing a high quality and modern public service, while at the same time maintaining a fair level playing field between the different actors".

The review builds on the fundamental principles applicable to the financing of public service broadcasting as laid down by EU law and in particular by the Amsterdam Protocol, including the recognition of Member States' wide discretion to define the mission of public service broadcasters and the Commission's task to preserve fair competition.

The text submitted for consultation aims to apply these principles for the control of state aid in the broadcasting sector to the new media environment, in line with the Commission's recent case practice. It affirms that it is primarily for states to assess through a transparent and accountable process the needs of society, the value for the public of new services, as well as their impact on the market.

The draft also suggests increased flexibility for public service broadcasters to build up reserves to help them deliver on their public service mission and to withstand cost fluctuations. At the same time, the suggested rules would require reinforced control mechanisms at the national level to avoid overcompensation and cross-subsidisation of commercial activities.

Member States and stakeholders are now invited to comment on the specific provisions that the Commission suggests should apply to state funding of public service broadcasting. The consultation documents include the draft revised Communication itself and an explanatory note in the form of questions and answers, which clarify the proposed Commission approach in the different areas under review.

The draft Broadcasting Communication and an explanatory note are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/state_aid/reform/reform.cfm

Submissions received during the consultation will also be published on this page.

Background

The media sector is an important area for the Commission's state aid policy. Public broadcasters receive more than €22 billion annually from license fees or direct government aid, placing them third, after agriculture and transport companies, among recipients of state aid.

To clarify its interpretation of EC Treaty state aid rules in the sector, the Commission in 2001 adopted a Communication on the application of state aid rules to public service broadcasting (see IP/01/1429). This Communication has been applied by the Commission in assessing numerous complaints which were lodged by commercial competitors against the financing of public service broadcasters. Since the adoption of the Communication, the Commission has taken over 20 decisions in which it has further clarified the application of the state aid rules to the broadcasting sector. An overview of these decisions is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/decisions_psb.pdf The most recent decisions on existing aid schemes for public broadcasting in Germany (see IP/07/543 and MEMO/07/150), Ireland (see IP/08/317) and Belgium (Flanders) (see IP/08/316) reflect the Commission's approach in particular as regards the definition of the public service remit in the new media environment.

A first public consultation (see IP/08/24) on the general principles of the review took place between January and March 2008 and marked the beginning of the review of the Broadcasting Communication announced in the State Aid Action Plan of 2005 (see IP/05/680). On the basis of the results from the consultation, Commissioner Kroes announced in July her intention to modernise the current Communication, which dates back to 2001.

See also MEMO/08/671.


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