PARIS: French president Nicolas Sarkozy (pictured) is pressing ahead with plans to scrap advertising on the country's public service television stations. He intends to tax telecoms firms and private broadcasters to make up the lost revenues.

The proposals, first mooted at the beginning of the year, have been greeted with dismay by the TV companies which will be required to hand over three percent of their ad revenues. Telcos will be taxed at 0.9% of sales.

The latter, led by the French Telecoms Federation, say they will continue to challenge the plans until they are approved by the government, after which they will take their objections to the European Commission.

The plans have also failed to impress the EC, which believes a new tax would be counter-productive to investment and expansion of new technologies.

The changes, if given the green light, would be phased in at the beginning of 2009, with an initial ban on commercials after 8pm. They would disappear completely from France Télévisions from December 2011.

Sarkozy's vision for the future of the nation's PSB stations is similar to the UK's BBC, with its reputation for quality programming and production.

The President avers: "France needs a balance between public channels and private channels

"We have to allow the private channels to develop and at the same time we have to give France Télévisions the means of offering quality programmes to as many viewers as possible."

The four main channels controlled by the broadcaster raised €834 million ($1.31bn; £660bn) from advertising and sponsorship in 2006, around 40% of total revenues. The rest comes from a licence fee, similar to that collected from British householders to fund the BBC.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff