State Aid and Public Service Broadcasting

How Future-proof is the Remit of Public Broadcasting Organisations?
1 / 2009
Karen Donders


The European Commission’s interference through state aid rules with the Member States’ support for public service broadcasting is not undisputed. Member States, public broadcasters and numerous academics fear that State aid control might limit the public service remit and, hence, the multi-platform and holistic role of public broadcasters in the converging media industries. This paper assesses to what extent the fear for Commission intervention is, indeed, justified. It starts with the assumption that the transformation from public service broadcasting to public service media is vital for the European democratic society. The paper leads to the observation that, in fact, European State aid policy might contribute to such a necessary and urgent transformation, instead of threatening it. The paper consists of three main parts. Firstly, the legal constraints and margins of the Community’s State aid framework are discussed. Secondly, the application of the rules to a selection of public broadcasting cases is analyzed. Finally, some conclusions are drawn from the analysis.

About the author

Karen Donders holds a Master’s degree in Communication Sciences. In 2006 she became a PhD researcher at the Institute for European Studies. Karen is also affiliated with the Center for Studies on Media Information and Telecommunications (SMIT), which is a partner in the IBBT research consortium. Karen’s research concerns the impacts of European State aid policy on the remit, control and financial support of public broadcasting organizations in the EU, in particular whether or not European State aid control can assist the transformation from public service broadcasting to public service media.