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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


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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B. Public service broadcasting in the context of State aid


19 B. Public service broadcasting in the context of State aid The media hold a key position in informing, educating and forming the opinion of the population. According to the Commission, ‘[t]here is no other service that at the same time has access to such a wide sector of the population, provides it with so much information and content, and by doing so conveys and influences both individual and public opinion.’30 Below, a short overview is given related to the definition of PSB (I.), its specific public value that distinguishes it from commercially operating broadcasting (II.) and the compensation which is granted by the Member States to maintain this public value (III.). I. Definition The term ‘PSB’ is not subject to any unanimously accepted legal definition, nor should it be understood in a rigid way. Although radio and television services are included, the scope of the term should not be limited to these services. Otherwise, albeit functionally they provide the same services as traditional broadcasting, tech- nological improvements or changes (e.g. digitalisation of the programmes) could be unnecessarily excluded. This would cause severe difficulties for PSB to achieve its public service goal of reaching an ever increasing new-media-oriented audience.31 Thus, the term ‘PSB’ – as understood in the present work – is technologically neutral and might also comprise new media services.32 Nevertheless, PSB is always connected to SGEI.33 Therefore, the term used here refers to broadcasters who are subject to public service obligations. These public services show specific public value that...

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