EU pubcaster plan attacked

BRUSSELS — Kirch Group topper Jan Mojto has attacked an initiative to exempt Euro pubcasters from EU competition rules, saying that it would give them an unfair advantage over private broadcasters and distort the whole TV market in Europe.

The plan has been forwarded by the Belgian government in the form of a protocol to the existing EEC Treaty, which is up for revision at the EU summit of heads of state in Amsterdam on June 16-17. The Belgian plan, which has the support of a majority of the EU’s 15 member states, including Germany, would allow governments to give pubcasters unlimited funding, as they would not have to comply with EU rules on “state aids.” These rules are designed to prevent governments from distorting the single market by subsidizing national champions.

Commercial broadcasters, represented by the Assn. of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT), fear that pubcasters will use state funding to cross-subsidize new, highly competitive new media services such as digital TV.

“This proposal will mean that every operator in every economic sector will be subject to competition rules — except for public broadcasters — even though the existence of public service and competition is even clearer in other economic sectors such as energy, post and telecommunications,” said Mojto, president of ACT.

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