EC regs put heat on pubcasters

Commission desires to ensure fair competition

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has issued plans to revise EU rules on the financial transparency of companies, which could put the heat on pubcasters that use state subsidies to beef up their commercial TV operations.

The decision to amend the 1980 EU directive on financial transparency follows the commission’s call in October 1998 for a clear and transparent distinction between pubcasters’ public service broadcasting and their commercial activities.

Brussels’ plans, formally published in the EU’s Official Journal on Dec. 29, have been warmly received by commercial broadcasters in the EU. “As commercial broadcasters competing alongside the license-funded broadcasters in the digital as well as analog markets, we welcome the European Commission’s commitment to ensure fair competition in the broadcasting sector through compulsory separate accounting and financial transparency for public broadcasters,” said Richard Eyre, chief exec of the U.K.’s ITV.

Eyre would like attention paid to the need for orgs such as the BBC, which does not receive any revenue from advertising, but has significant earnings from TV ventures that compete directly with commercial broadcasters.

The Commission’s desire to ensure fair competition in this sensitive area of public policy has so far fallen on deaf ears in most EU state capitals, but as momentum grows to adopt a new directive designed to block subsidies to state-owned companies, it may be difficult for national governments to exclude broadcasting from their scope.

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