EC to probe public broadcaster expansion

Moves by European public sector broadcasters to expand their activities into new areas, such as mobile TV and video on demand, could be subject to more prior scrutiny under revisions to controversial proposals published by Brussels.

The European Commission is in the process of revising its 2001 guidelines for applying EU state aid rules to public service broadcasting. The current rules have become increasingly outdated as technologies have changed; in particular, with more distribution opportunities available, broadcasters generally have been keen to diversify. This has led to a rise in complaints to Brussels from commercial operators about the activities of the PSBs and the extent to which public money is allegedly being used to cross-subsidise their forays into these areas.

The commission's original revamp of its guidelines suggested that PSBs should have more flexibility to charge for services and build up reserves to expand operations. But it also recommended reinforced controls on their activities at national level, including independent advance assessments of the market impact and public value of new services.

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