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Public Financing of Public Service Broadcasting and its Qualification as State Aid

With Particular Regard to the "Altmark Trans</I> Jurisprudence

Series:

Benjamin Linke

The book sheds light on the demands of Art. 107(1) TFEU regarding public funding of public service broadcasting (PSB). Broadcasting is of particular importance in the modern structure of democracy. PSB provides broadcasting services that are of higher quality and of more cultural value to the community than services provided by commercial broadcasters. To ensure the operation of PSB, Member States of the European Union have introduced various measures to support broadcasters. These support measures have to comply with European State aid law, which seeks to prevent overcompensation. In its Altmark Trans-ruling, the ECJ laid down specific criteria under which compensation for services of general economic interest (SGEI) should not be considered State aid in the sense of Art. 107(1) TFEU. The author focuses on the Altmark-criteria. Apart from Art. 107(1) TFEU, he also looks at the effect of the Amsterdam Protocol, which is occasionally argued to have a significant impact on the application of the State aid rules to PSB.

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A. Introduction

Extract

13 A. Introduction Broadcasting is of particular importance in the modern structure of democracy. It helps building cultural identity, develops citizenship and has the potential of strengthening social cohesion.1 Consequently, in the European tradition, broad- casting has become part of public services, i.e. infrastructural services supported by the state to meet public needs.2 Such public service broadcasting (PSB) provides broadcasting services that are of higher quality and of more cultural value to the community than services provided by commercial broadcasters. To ensure the op- eration of PSB, Member States of the European Union have introduced various measures to support broadcasters. Over the last two decades, the public aid provided to public service broadcasters has become more and more controversial. This has not always been the case. Up to the late 70s/beginning of the 80s, broadcasting was performed solely on a mo- nopolistic or oligopolistic basis due to the limited technical possibilities,3 and, as a result, this support did not have the potential to influence competition. By virtue of new transmission technologies, the market was opened up to private broadcasters, which did not receive public support.4 Until the middle of the 80s all West European countries were seeing the introduction of private broadcasters that were solely financed by revenues earned from commercial activities (e.g. sale of advertisement space).5 As public service broadcasters and commercial broadcasters were competing for the same license rights (e.g. sports, films), the same viewers and (at least partly) for the same advertisers and sponsors, public...

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