Saturday, November 8, 2008

Opportunity to air opinions on state funding for public service broadcasting

The European Commission today (Nov 4) opened public consultations on a draft Communication laying down the rules that it intends to apply to state funding of public service broadcasting.

Announcing the proposals, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement: "I am pleased to submit the draft Broadcasting Communication for public consultation. My goal is to help stakeholders in the broadcasting sector to meet the challenges of the new media environment, allowing a high quality and modern public service, while at the same time maintaining a fair level playing field between the different actors."

Putting the deadline of submissions at January 15, 2009, the Commission invited member states and stakeholders to submit their views on the proposed text, listing the key issues for discussion as, "more flexibility for public broadcasters to meet the challenges of the new media environment, the principles underpinning the definition of the public service remit by the member states as well as supervision of public service activities at national level."

On the basis of the comments received, the Commission is expected to adopt a modernised Broadcasting Communication in the first half of 2009.

According to the submitted draft there would be "increased flexibility for public service broadcasters to build up reserves to help them deliver on their public service mission and to withstand cost fluctuations." "At the same time, the suggested rules would require reinforced control mechanisms at the national level to avoid overcompensation and cross-subsidisation of commercial activities," the draft added.

Citing that the media sector is an important area for the Commission's state aid policy, the Commission stated, "Public broadcasters receive more than 22 billion Euro annually from license fees or direct government aid, placing them third, after agriculture and transport companies, among recipients of state aid."

Based on an earlier public consultation between January and March 2008, on the general principles of the Broadcasting Communication, Commissioner Kroes announced in July her intention to modernise the current Communication, which dates back to 2001.

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