Euro Commission to increase PSBs' flexibility

Public service broadcasters adapting to new media

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission on Tuesday unveiled proposals designed to provide more flexibility for public service broadcasters as they meet the challenges of the fast-changing media environment, including the option of charging for services.

The proposals are part of an overhaul of 2001 rules on government aid to PSBs that is intended to take into account developments including mobile TV and VOD.

The commission argues that tighter controls will prevent overcompensation and cross-subsidization of enterprises like Web sites that compete in a commercial setting. Pay-per-view for popular sports fixtures that have been acquired or funded with public money is specifically excluded.

Public broadcasters in the EU receive more than $28 billion annually from license fees or direct government aid, placing them third, after agriculture and transport companies, among European recipients of state aid.