EC: Swedish pubcaster payments legal

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BRUSSELS -- Sweden's public broadcaster, SVT, did not provide illegal aid to state-owned network operator Teracom, the European Commission said Thursday as it closed the books on a two-year investigation.

The commission -- the European Union's executive body -- initially saw the high level of payments as an indirect aid to Teracom. Its probe was originally prompted by complaints from satellite TV operators, who insisted that the government was boosting the Swedish operator's move toward digital technology platforms.

Initial inquiries also suggested that the total payments made by SVT -- obliged by law to use Teracom's digital network and to pay that company a transmission fee -- seemed higher than the actual transmission costs.

The EC looked into the mechanisms allowing the government to grant guarantees and a capital injection to Teracom, which might have been seen as another form of state aid.

"The commission is convinced that Sweden did not grant Teracom state aid to help the move to digital television," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

But despite giving the all-clear in this instance, Kroes insisted that the commission will still pursue the court case it launched in October against the Swedish government for failing to scrap the state monopoly on digital TV, currently granted to Boxer TV-Access.

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