TF1 files France Télévisions state aid complaint
January 23, 2024
From Pascale Paoli-Lebailly in Paris
French commercial broadcaster TF1 group has filed a complaint with the European Commission for “illegal state aid” against PSB group France Télévisions.
The abolition of the TV licence fee, to be replaced by the allocation of a portion of VAT, is at the heart of TF1’s argument, according to Le Figaro. “This change in financing arrangements decided by the legislator constitutes a new state aid. In principle, it must be notified to the European Commission before its implementation. Otherwise, it is illegal,” assert Frédéric Mion and Benoît Le Bret, associate lawyers within the Gide firm, in charge of the case.
“Community law protects the financing of public services but the rule is formal: clearly defined obligations are necessary to qualify for this financing,” they write.
The complaint also denounces a “double tax fraud” as “France Télévisions’ new method of financing has required it to pay a tax on salaries since 2022. Tax that the State would compensate illegally under European law, by increasing the budgetary allocation granted to the public service”.
According to TF1’s lawyers, the public service has also benefited, since 1969, from a much reduced VAT regime (2.1 per cent instead of 20 per cent) which allowed it to avoid the payroll tax to which it should have been subject.
The European Commission has just notified the French state, which has four weeks to respond. If the Commission subsequently decides to open a procedure, it will have eighteen months to investigate and deliver its conclusions.