Heft 267

Vincent Porter:

Public Service Broadcasting and the Contradictions of European Competition Policy,

Cologne, in July 2010, ISBN 978-3-938933-73-2

14 p., Price 6,00 €


This paper is based on a presentation given by Vincent Porter, Emeritus Professor of Mass Communications at the University of Westminster, during an international conference concerning "The Future of the Broadcasting Licence Fee in Times of Media Convergence", Bonn, May 6, 2010. It considers three aspects of European competition policy in the field of licence fee funded broadcasting, which will particularly affect the future of the broadcasting licence fee in Europe: 1. the promotion of the General Economic Interest and the restrictions on the allocation of State aid, 2. the delivery of a Universal Service in broadcast programmes and a free market in electronic communications networks, and 3. the use of State aid to push the transport of electronic signals over the airwaves, and the need for the consumer to pay for access to on-demand signals financed by State aid.

The author concludes that there are three contradictions at the heart of Europe’s policy towards public service broadcasting: 1. It regulates public service broadcasting both as an SGEI and, more stringently, as a beneficiary of State aid. 2. Although Europe’s public service broadcasters have traditionally used their State aid to pay for the universal over-the-air delivery of their broadcast signals, they will increasingly have to compete with providers of other, non-broadcast, audiovisual services. Moreover, in many European countries, there is no guarantee that a universal broadband service will become available unless the Commission approves a second – but different - form of State aid in order to build, or to extend, a commercial broadband, or NGA, network, which can only take place either in a “white area” or in one of the Commission’s “grey areas”. 3. The decision by public service broadcasters to use their State aid funds in order to establish their own on-demand services, means that the additional costs, which a consumer has to pay to access those services via a broadband or NGA network, will be additional to the transmission costs for broadcasts which s/he has already paid to the broadcaster in their broadcasting licence fee. Thus State aids may often be used to encourage television viewers to pay further costs to commercial transmission networks, in order to access the already- State-aided – or in some cases State-funded - on-demand services. 

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
2. The General Economic Interest and the Prohibitions on State Aid in Electronic Communications Networks
3. The Provision of a Universal Service and the Free Market
4. Electronic Signals: State-aided Push or Consumer-driven Pull?
5. Conclusion