EU skeds pubcaster vote

AMSTERDAM — European Union heads of state are expected to decide by Tuesday if public broadcasters should be exempt from all European Union competition regulations.

Heads of states from 15 member nations including France, Germany and Great Britain meet here Monday and Tuesday to revise the EEC Treaty.

The current treaty gives pubcasters some exemptions from competition rules, but they still are subject to “state aid” regs designed to prevent government-funded institutions from distorting the single market’s so-called “level playing field.”

All but three of the member states — Britain, Finland and Spain — have endorsed an initiative by the Belgium government that would allow governments to grant unlimited funds to pubcasters.

The plan, put forth in the form of a protocol to several articles in the EEC treaty, has been met with outrage by commercial broadcasters, who charge the unlimited funding could give pubcasters a distinct advantage in building digital TV and new media services, while private broadcasters scramble for funds to compete.

Euro heads of state are meeting in De Nederlandsche Bank, the Fort Knox of Holland both in terms of gold and security, with more than 2,500 journalists encamped a stone’s throw away at Frederiks Square. Dutch pubcaster NOS will be providing the signal and broadcasting services for the 33 broadcast companies in town to cover the event.

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