Commission questions state financing of public service broadcasters

04.03.05 @ 16:21

  1. By Filipe Rufino

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has requested the German, Irish and Dutch governments to explain their financing rules for public service broadcasters.

  • Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes (Photo: European Commission)

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes wrote on Thursday (3rd of March) to the three governments, showing the Commission's concern over complaints received that these practices constitute a distortion of competition rules.

"The Commission's preliminary view is that the current financing system in no longer in line with EU rules", wrote Kroes.

According to EU Competition rules, the founding of public service broadcasters though contributions form the state is acceptable as long as they are done in a transparent way and in an amount "necessary to fulfil a task in the public interest".

Funding by member-states' resources is considered to be state aid in most cases, of which the Commission is obliged to check for "abusive practices".

Further concerns raised in the Commission's investigation include the providing of online services such as e-commerce and mobile telephone services via the Dutch and German broadcasters websites, as well as irregularities in the practices of acquisition of sports rights by the German and Irish broadcasters.

The Commissioner also asked each state to create an independent entity to monitor compliance with these rules.

According to Deutsche Welle, both the ARD and ZDF are set to scale down their internet services "as a precautionary measure".

Irish RTE "welcomes and endorses the principles the Commission upholds as regards Public Service Broadcasting".

A similar warning was made in October 2003 to France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, all countries with a record of yearly state money transfers into unprofitable public service media.

According to a Commission spokesperson, the four countries showed a "commitment to implement the necessary measures" and the results are being monitored.

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