Brussels, 26 th January 2010
State aid: Commission clears annual financing regime for Dutch public service broadcasters after amendments
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules the annual financing regime for the Dutch public service broadcasters in light of amendments made to the financing regime and formal commitments submitted by the Dutch authorities. The implementation of the commitments will inter alia clarify the definition of the public service remit and the entrustment of new media services and will limit the financing to what is necessary to fulfil the broadcasters' public service tasks. The Commission has therefore concluded that the commitments are a suitable means to ensure compliance with EU state aid rules.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: “I am satisfied that the co-operation between The Netherlands and the Commission has brought the Dutch financing regime for public service broadcasters into line with EU state aid rules. The new regime will provide more transparency, proportionality and accountability and will allow public service broadcasters to fulfil their public service mission while at the same time limiting public funding to what is necessary.”
Since 2002 the Commission received complaints against various aspects of the financing regime for the Dutch public service broadcasters from several commercial broadcasters and other media undertakings. The complainants raised concerns about the entrustment and lack of a precise definition of the public service task, including the financing of online activities, and about the proportionality of the financing.
In March 2005 the Commission had opened a preliminary investigation and requested The Netherlands to clarify the role and financing of the public service broadcasters. The Commission expressed concerns on a number of points in particular concerning the definition of the public service remit especially for new audiovisual services, the entrustment of new audiovisual services, and the proportionality of the financing both as regards adequate mechanisms to prevent overcompensation for public service activities and the respect of market principles (see IP/05/250 ).
The Dutch authorities came forward with proposals for amending the financing regime and embarked on a reform of the applicable media act also to address the preliminary concerns expressed by the Commission. A new media act entered into force in December 2008. Following further discussions between the Commission and the Dutch authorities, the Dutch authorities submitted in November 2009 commitments to amend the new financing regime so as to ensure its compliance with the state aid rules.
The Dutch authorities have undertaken to clarify in advance and in sufficient detail the scope of the public service task which will be entrusted to the public service broadcasters. In addition the Dutch authorities have committed that new audiovisual services, including pay services, will be subject to a prior evaluation before being entrusted to public service broadcasters. The Dutch authorities will ensure that the prior evaluation process will take place in a transparent way. As part of this prior evaluation process interested parties will be consulted and the market effects of new audiovisual services will be assessed and balanced against the benefits of the new service for the Dutch society.
The Dutch authorities have further committed to amend the financing mechanism, limiting the compensation of public service broadcasters to ensure that the public funding does not exceed what is necessary to fulfil the public service tasks, including the control of overcompensation.
As in all other cases, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the commitments at national level.
This is the second decision taken under the Commission's revised Broadcasting Communication of 2 July 2009 (see IP/09/1072 ).
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number E 5/2005 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 .