Commercial broadcasters ask for fair competition

March 2, 2009 | 08:30 UK

Representatives of a large number of European media companies have appealed to the European Commission to resist pressure from member states to water down proposals that seek to establish clear fundamental guidelines on state aid to publicly-funded broadcasters.

The Commission plans such measures but is under increasing pressure from a growing number of member states that want to keep the privileges of public broadcasters. Both broadcasters and publishers ask for a level playing field and want to stop government subsidised competition with broadcasters entering into new medias, including online and digital TV channels.

The appeal to the Commission was made by various groups of commercial broadcasters and publishers including the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT), the Association of European Radios (AER), the European Publishers’ Council (EPC) and the German Association of Commercial Television and Radios (VPRT).

The 2001 Broadcasting Communication that sets out the principles to be followed by the Commission in the application of Articles 87 and 86(2) of the EC Treaty to State funding of public sector broadcasting is currently being revised by the Commission’s DG Competition and a proposal for a new text, that will focus on public sector broadcasting in the context of new media and mobile platforms, is expected to be presented shortly. The European Parliament’s Culture Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for this Thursday (March 5).

This media coalition broadly supports current Commission proposals to update the rules in order to clarify the remit of public broadcasting and, importantly, to introduce a new test that would be used to justify any new public sector broadcasting activity.

But there is strong political pressure to leave the 2001 Broadcasting Communication unchanged despite huge changes in the media marketplace that have taken place in the past eight years.