Brussels, 1 st September 2009
State aid: Commission approves immediate payment of subsidy to France Télévisions and opens in-depth investigation into long‑term funding mechanism
The European Commission has authorised payment of state aid of €450 million for France Télévision in 2009 as complying with EC Treaty state aid rules and, in particular, with the Commission Communication on state aid for the funding of public service broadcasters. At the same time the Commission has opened a formal investigation to examine whether the funding mechanism for France Télévisions for 2010 and beyond complies with these rules. Opening an in-depth investigation in cases involving major public intervention of this complexity is standard practice and will provide legal certainty. It also provides stakeholders with an opportunity to comment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the procedure.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “The decision of France Télévisions to place greater emphasis on its general-interest mission as part of the reform of public service broadcasters is in line with the policy of media plurality which the European Union supports. The Commission has embarked today on a detailed review of this reform and it calls on stakeholders to submit their comments before a final decision is taken. In the meantime, continuity of funding for France Télévisions’ public service is guaranteed.”
France Télévisions is the largest French broadcasting group and comprises the following channels : France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France Ô and RFO. In 2008 the French authorities launched a far-reaching reform of the public service broadcasting sector with a view to consolidating its specific nature and improving quality. The reform involves the gradual elimination of advertising on public channels and the introduction of two taxes, one on advertisements and the other on electronic communications. It also entails a new set of specifications unique to France Télévisions which further consolidates its general-interest mission. In a decision of 16 July 2008, the Commission unconditionally approved a €150 million capital injection (see ) .
After giving notice in January 2009 of plans to pay a subsidy for that year, the French authorities informed the Commission in May that they intended to set up a multi-annual funding mechanism for France Télévisions consisting of funding from the public‑service broadcasting contribution (previously the television licence) and an annual subsidy, which together would exceed €2 billion by 2012.
The definition of the public broadcasting mission vested in France Télévisions and the checks to which it is subject com ply with the state aid rules. Public service channels can thus continue to broadcast diversified programmes for the general public or for a more targeted audience as in the past. In no sense does application of the state aid rules imply checks on France Télévisions’ programming schedules. In the light of France Télévisions' public service broadcasting costs, the Commission approved the immediate payment of a €450 million subsidy for 2009, for which provision had already been made in the Budget Act adopted in December 2008.
However, the Commission has opened a formal investigation into several aspects of funding notified for subsequent years. It is concerned about the use made of the taxes introduced by the reform and possible overcompensation for public service costs up to 2011‑2012. France will have an opportunity to comment on the Commission’s concerns and the Commission will also take stakeholders’ comments into account before taking a final decision, which consolidates legal certainty.
The text of today's decision, with any confidential information removed, will be published in due course in the Official Journal of the European Communities, together with a meaningful summary in all Community languages. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number o n the . New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the online newsletter .