Summary:

State-funded broadcasters can spend their money to launch online services – as long as new services pass the same public value tests applied…

EC media commissioner Vivianne Reding

State-funded broadcasters can spend their money to launch online services – as long as new services pass the same public value tests applied to TV and radio equivalents, says the European Commission.

Right now, EC rules say public service broadcasters can be state-funded – but these broadcasters’ online expansionism has attracted complaints about unfairness from commercial rivals.

Clarifying state aid rules on Thursday, the commission said such broadcasters “should be able to use the opportunities offered by digitisation” and “may use state aid to provide audiovisual services over new distribution platforms” – as long as they don’t distort competition.

This will mean little to the BBC, whose regulator already applies stringent public value and market impact tests to proposed and existing online services like BBC Jam, BBC.co.uk and Project Canvas (and the BBC has a £145.1 million annual budget for online). But it’s an EC-level mandate for the practice that won’t be warmly received by commercial rivals. Release and full document (pdf).

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