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Brussels, 15th September 2010

State aid: Commission authorises a Slovak aid of €11 million towards the purchase of digital TV decoders by socially vulnerable persons

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a €11 million aid scheme supporting the purchase of digital television terminal equipment for socially vulnerable groups in Slovakia. The Commission found the measure to be in line with Article 107(2)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, that allows aid of a social character. In particular, the measure observes the principles of neutrality and non-discrimination between the different types and technologies as well as the geographical origins of decoders. The scheme has been approved until 1 July 2013.

Vice-President of the Commission in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia commented: "I commend the Slovak authorities for supporting the access by socially vulnerable persons to state-of-the-art television technology without unduly distorting competition. This is a further step towards the digitisation of broadcasting in Europe."

Under the scheme, any person who fulfils social exclusion criteria defined by the Slovak authorities themselves will be entitled to a voucher with a maximum value of €20 for the purchase of digital TV equipment.

The measure is aimed to bring digital television within the reach of citizens with a low income, old-age pensioners (the income ceiling being €158.89) and handicapped persons. Slovakia plans to switch from analogue to digital television by the end of 2012, which requires the acquisition of decoders and new TV sets. Without such upgraded devices, these citizens would no longer be able to receive television signals with their existing TV sets and, consequently, be excluded from this information source.

The Commission examined the measure under Article 107(2)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, that allows aid of a social character. The Commission found that the scheme was targeted at individual consumers and that it was technologically neutral, as it does not favor any particular transmission platform. Finally, all set-top-boxes, irrespective of their geographical origin, are eligible for the subsidy.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N671a/2009 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

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