European media business welcomes clarification of rules applying to State Aid to public broadcasters

Brussels, 2 July 2009 – Today representatives of the European media business – including the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT), the Association ofEuropean Radios (AER), the European Publishers’ Council (EPC), the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) and the German Association of Commercial Broadcasters and Audiovisual Services (VPRT) – welcomed the conclusion of the revision of the 2001 Broadcasting Communication. The Communication sets out the

principles to be followed by the Commission in the application of Articles 87 and 86 of the EC Treaty to State funding of public sector broadcasting. In the EU 27, state aid to broadcasting is estimated as being worth at least Euro 22 bn per year. In the current economic environment, it is of ever greater importance that the European Union rules on state aid are rigorously applied so as to ensure that those private sector companies who do not seek public support are not unfairly disadvantaged.

Ross Biggam, Director General ACT, commented: “After strong resistance against the text in particular from national cultural ministries, we congratulate the Commission for having come up with a balanced and workable text. It would have been helpful if further details had been maintained, but we understand that in line with the Brussels policymaking process a compromise had to be found. However, the real work will now begin with the implementation of the new obligations contained in this text by the Member States”.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director EPC, said: “The ongoing economic crisis puts into stark relief the ever greater need to provide rules for fair competition between commercial and publicly-funded players in the media business. For the private media companies the introduction of ex-ante scrutiny for new ventures which can play havoc with our online and mobile services and the need for an independent control body are the most important milestones, which will help to prevent future distortion of competition in the market. To be truly effective though, and in line with the Amsterdam Protocol control bodies should be independent from the management of the public service broadcaster".

While it is up to the Member States to define the remit and financing of the public broadcasters in their markets, the Communication gives clearer guidance as to how theMember States should effectively do this. When commenting on this matter, Frederik Stucki, Secretary General AER, highlighted: “We welcome the recognition of the essential role played by private media.

We indeed offer a wide choice of content which enriches the cultural and political debate. It has been important to clarify that public broadcasters should comply with qualitative requirements”. The text has been discussed among the EU institutions over the last months and stakeholders had the opportunity to give their input during two consultations. The text gives guidance to Member States on how to ensure compliance with state aid rules to public broadcasters. Tobias Schmid, Vice President VPRT & Vice President Media Policy at RTL Television Germany, stressed: “With the adoption of this text the Commission has taken an important step forward, which will help to clarify issues beforehand and might thus lead to fewer actions being taken to Brussels. In Germany the application of the exante test has started and it will be important to ensure that this is carried out in an efficient and transparent way for all parties”.

Valtteri Niiranen, Executive Director ENPA, said: “All Member States - large as well as small - now have a major role to play in order to better define the remits of the publicly funded broadcasters in detail in national legislation to prevent significant distortion of the media market. Newspaper publishers and their associations are engaged in individual cases regarding publicly funded broadcasters’ activities before the EU Commission and with a clearly defined scope of activities of the publicly funded broadcasters in both small and large Member States, all parties could also avoid these lengthy processes”.

About the ACT:
The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) is a trade association representing the interests of the commercial broadcasting sector in Europe. The ACT has twenty eight member companies active in 34 European countries operating more than 400 free-to-air and pay-tv channels and distributing several hundred channels and new services. For further information, please see: www.acte.be

About the EPC:
The European Publishers Council is a high level group of Chairmen and Chief Executives of leading European media corporations actively involved in multimedia markets spanning newspaper, magazine, book, journal, internet and online database publishers. Many EPC members also have significant interests in commercial television and radio. For our list of members and further information please visit the following address: www.epceurope.org/about/ourmembers.shtml

About the AER:
The Association of European Radios (AER) is a Europe-wide trade body representing the interests of over 4,500 private/commercial radio stations across the EU27 and in Switzerland. For further information, please see: www.aereurope.org

About the VPRT:
VPRT, Verband Privater Rundfunk und Telemedien e.V., German Association of Commercial Broadcasters and Audiovisual Services - Representing 160 companies operating in the field of commercial television, radio, audiovisual media services and teleshopping.

About the ENPA:
The European Newspaper Publishers' Association (ENPA) is an international association, advocating the interests of the European newspaper publishing industry at different European and international organisations and institutions. ENPA represents over 5,200 national, regional and local newspaper titles, published in 23 European Union Member States plus Norway and Switzerland. More than 150 million newspapers are sold and read by over 300 million Europeans every day, in addition to the millions of unique daily visits to online newspapers websites.

For further information, please consult our website: www.enpa.be

EMMA

The European Magazine Media Association, is the unique and complete representation of Europe’s magazine media, which is today enjoyed by millions of consumers on various platforms, encompassing both paper and digital formats. EMMA represents 15,000 publishing houses, publishing 50,000 magazine titles across Europe in print and digital.

www.magazinemedia.eu
ENPA

The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) is the largest representative body of newspaper publishers across Europe. ENPA advocates for 16 national associations across 13 European countries, and is a principal interlocutor to the EU institutions and a key driver of media policy debates in the European Union.

www.enpa.eu