Swedes may cut TV4 tax

Web must pay $62.3 mil for national reach

AMSTERDAM — National commercial web TV4 Sweden could have its hefty 500 million Swedish kroner ($62.3 million) annual tax it pays for national reach, reduced substantially over the next few years and completely abolished in 2008.

That’s the recommendation of a Swedish Ministry of Culture committee report released Friday. Lars Maren, a senior advisor in the ministry’s media division told Variety it’s possible the new recommendations could be in place by the end of the year.

Jan Scherman, managing director of TV4, was disappointed by the proposals. “We had hoped for a more radical solution,” he said.

The tax was introduced in 1992 when TV4 Sweden was the only national commercial broadcaster in the country, but the channel argues that the TV landscape has changed considerably and that TV4 no longer has the same advantage over cable and satellite channels.

A TV4 spokesman said reach for satellite channels had grown from 40% to 70% since 1992 and that more people are buying satellite dishes. More people are also connected to cable and digital platforms in Sweden also help level the playing field, he noted.

The channel is also paying a hefty fee for the income it makes from digital broadcasting. “We are the only channel in Europe as far as I know that has to pay such a fee,” the TV4 spokesman added.

Other Nordic territories such as Finland and Norway have already halved the concession fees of national terrestrial channels MTV3 and TV2 Norway, respectively.

The proposed changes to the Swedish concession fee, if approved, mark the end of an era when commercial TV was in its infancy in Scandinavia, as does the planned privatization of TV2 Danmark.

The national commercial terrestrial channels in Scandinavia — TV4 Sweden, TV2 Norway and TV2 Danmark — were all launched at a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s when commercial television was newly deregulated in the Scandinavian territories.

Satellite networks such as TV3, now part of the Modern Times Group, had been able to circumvent local rules by broadcasting from the U.K., and are therefore subject to U.K. regs.

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