European Media Groups Slam State-Funded Broadcasting

31 March 2004

An alliance of Europe's commercial media groups has called on the European Commission to rein in state-subsidised broadcasters.

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe, Association Européenne des Radios and the European Publishers Council -- between them representing some of the continent's biggest media firms -- argue that publicly funded broadcasters have benefited from "years of over-funding and under-regulation".

The trio on Tuesday released their White Paper on the Financing and Regulation of Publicly-Funded Broadcasters, which alleges that state-funded TV and radio have grown so big they are distorting competition across the media sector and are "in need of urgent reform".

This document claims public funding of broadcasters such as the BBC in Britain and ZDF in Germany totalled €15 billion ($18.3bn; £10.0bn) across the EU in 2001 -- making the media the third most-subsidised sector in Europe. Since then, state handouts have grown at an estimated 4.8% a year, outpacing EU economic growth.

The White Paper continued: "At the same time that state aid to publicly funded broadcasters has been increased, competition continues to be undermined by a lack of regulatory rigour that guarantees fair competition as well as prolonged Commission inaction despite numerous court judgements in the area."

The media groups are particularly aggrieved by broadcasters that receive both state funding and ad revenues. These, the document claims, "distort markets in excess of what is acceptable and fundamentally [are] contrary to the public interest."

As a result, the White Paper calls on EU states to convert these broadcasters to a "single funded model". It also calls on the EC to shrug off the "lack of political will" that has held back adequate regulation of the sector.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff