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EU reworks pubcaster lingo

AMSTERDAM — European heads of state agreed Tuesday to add a revision to the EEC treaty that could give a new edge to public broadcasters in Europe over private commercial operators.

European Union leaders here at a two-day summit (June 16-17) agreed to add a new “interpretative provision,” or protocol, to the treaty which exempts pubcasters from EU competition regulations and allows governments of member states to give broadcasters unlimited funding.

The measure absolves governments from complying with EU regs on “state aids” when providing “for the funding of public service broadcasting” as long as the state channels are fulfilling their public service obligations.

The state aids provision was set up to prevent governments from building up national orgs that could distort the so-called “level playing field” of the single market.

The new protocol heavily underscores the public service remit as justifying the exemption to competition regulations, but the measure has drawn heavy fire from ACT (the Assn. of Commercial Television), a group consisting of many of Europe’s largest commercial broadcasters.

ACT has charged that the unrestrained funding could allow pubcasters to build up highly competitive new media and digital platforms, making entry for private operators difficult if not impossible.

Jan Mojto, president of ACT and Kirch Group topper, earlier this month blasted the protocol, charging it would distort the whole Euro TV market.

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