EC approves France Televisions subsidy

Goal is to offset lost income from commercials

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has cleared $238 million in government aid for public television in France.

The subsidy for public television holding company France Televisions aims to offset lost income from commercials that will be scrapped beginning next year. The EC said that the aid will compensate France Televisions for its mission to provide quality programming that does not attract advertising revenue.

"In particular, the mission encourages ambitious, quality programming to promote culture, diversity of opinion, democratic debate and social diversity," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

Earlier this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans to ban advertising on public TV and radio. Most of the estimated $1 billion in advertising that would exit public channels is expected to transfer to private broadcasters TF1 and M6.

The French government wants to offset the rest of the lost advertising through taxes on mobile phones and Internet access, but Kroes warned that this was a separate issue.

"Once they have been identified, any new sources of public financing for France Televisions as part of the renewed focus on its public service missions will have to be reported to and examined by the commission," Kroes said.