European council issues warning over PSBs

Consumers could be driving force to end public funding

BRUSSELS -- Public service broadcasters could face a consumer rebellion over the quality of their output as license fee-payers refuse to pay, a coalition of European media barons has warned.

PSBs have to be radically redefined to maintain any degree of public funding, the European Publishers Council said Friday. The EPC said that they must be program-led hot houses of talent and creative energy -- machines designed to make and commission programs and to earn or raise money to make more.

EPC chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemao said that consumers, not politicians, could eventually be the driving force to end PSB public funding throughout Europe over the next 10-20 years.

"Why should viewers in any country be required by law to pay for what they may not watch?" he said, foreseeing that future PSBs will be smaller and leaner, dedicated to high-quality programming funded mainly by sponsorship or subscription.

EPC members include News Corp.'s James Murdoch, Lagardere Active chairman Didier Quillot as well as the heads of the U.K.'s Reed Elsevier, Sweden's Bonnier Group, Germany's Axel Springer and Gruner + Jahr and Finland's SanomaWSOY.