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State aid: Commission launches public consultation on the future framework for State funding of public service broadcasting

European Commission - IP/08/24   10/01/2008

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/08/24

Brussels, 10 January 2008

State aid: Commission launches public consultation on the future framework for State funding of public service broadcasting

The European Commission has published a consultation paper on the future framework which will apply to State funding of public service broadcasting. This consultation gives Member States and stakeholders the opportunity to submit their views at an early stage, before any Commission proposal, on the possible revision of the Broadcasting Communication – first adopted in 2001 (see IP/01/1429). Comments should be submitted by 10 March 2008. The consultation documents include a questionnaire as well as an explanatory memorandum which gives an overview of the current rules, the relevant Commission decision-making practice and the possible scope for amendments. Key issues for discussion are the public service remit in the new media environment and control of overcompensation. Having reviewed the comments, the Commission may come forward later this year with a proposal for a revised Broadcasting Communication, with a view to its adoption in the first half of 2009.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "I want a constructive exchange of views with all Member States and stakeholders on the design of the future framework for State aid to public service broadcasting. The present Broadcasting Communication provides valuable guidance to media companies, public broadcasters and Member States alike, but there may be ways it can usefully be improved to increase transparency and legal certainty, also as regards the way public service broadcasters fulfil their mission in the new media environment “.

The launch of this consultation marks the beginning of the review of the Broadcasting Communication announced in the State Aid Action Plan of 2005 (see IP/05/680). The review will build on the fundamental principles applicable to the financing of public service broadcasting as laid down by Community law and in particular the Amsterdam Protocol. These principles include the recognition of Member States' wide discretion to define public service broadcasting and the Commission's task to preserve fair competition. This implies in particular the need for a clearly defined public service mission as well as a limitation of State aid to what is necessary for the fulfilment of this mission, excluding overcompensation and possible cross-subsidies into commercial activities.

It offers the opportunity to evaluate the extent to which developments that have occurred since the adoption of the 2001 Broadcasting Communication require further clarification or changes to the existing rules.

Member States and stakeholders can comment on whether changes in the legal environment, developments in the Commission's decision-making practice, market developments and future challenges of the audiovisual media sector call for changes to the rules. In particular the implications for public service broadcasting of market developments in the delivery of audiovisual content and the emergence of new media services requires broad discussions with Member States and stakeholders.

The Commission will then evaluate whether and to what extent changes to the rules are necessary. If appropriate, the Commission will come forward with a new proposal for a revised Broadcasting Communication in the second half of 2008. Member States and stakeholders will again have the opportunity to express their views on this revised proposal before the Commission decides on any final version of the rules in the first half of 2009.

For further information, the questionnaire (in all official EU languages) as well as the explanatory memorandum (in English only) are available at:

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

Submissions received will also be published on this page.

Background

In 2001, the Commission adopted a Communication on the application of State aid rules to public service broadcasting (see IP/01/1429) to provide guidance about how to assess the financing of public service broadcasters in accordance with Article 86 (2) EC Treaty and the Protocol on the system of public broadcasting in the Member States, the Amsterdam Protocol. This Communication has helped the Commission assess numerous complaints which were lodged by private competitors pursuant to the State aid rules against the financing of public service broadcasters. Since the adoption of the Communication, the Commission has taken approximately 20 decisions in which it has further clarified the application of the State aid rules to the broadcasting sector. An over view of these decisions is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/decisions_psb.pdf The most recent decision which reflects the general approach followed by the Commission in similar cases and which further clarifies the requirements laid down in the Broadcasting Communication, concerned the financing of public service broadcasters in Germany (see IP/07/543 and MEMO/07/150).

In June 2005, the Commission announced in its State Aid Action Plan a review of the Broadcasting Communication by 2008. In November 2005, the Commission adopted, as announced in the State Aid Action Plan, measures on services of general economic interest (see IP/05/680), laying down the rules for assessing State aid to services of general economic interest.


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