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BROADCASTING: TALKS ON ANTITRUST PROBE INTO ARD AND ZDF INTERNET SERVICES.

Germany's two nationwide public broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, are funded by licence fee revenues and advertising. Their critics claim the two broadcasters are misusing the licence fee money - a state subsidy - to launch internet services. In 1999, the Commission dismissed a similar complaint about German public funds, saying ARD and ZDF could launch two new channels because they fell within the public remit (see 2384).

In October 2004, German pay-TV station Premiere filed two complaints with EU antitrust regulators, one against ARD and ZDF and a second against the public broadcasters' group, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). It claimed that the EBU breaks competition law because public broadcasters make a mass bid for major sporting rights which smaller private rivals cannot match.

Premiere also claimed ARD, ZDF and Austrian public broadcaster ORF regularly outbid it just to prevent it gaining access to sporting events. Premiere said the public channels were using licence fee money to buy rights to matches that are never broadcast. "What they are doing is eliminating market competition at the expense of their paid-up viewers," said Premiere chief executive Georg Kofler in a statement at the time. "This is surely not in the interests of their public mandate to provide a basic TV service."

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ARD and ZDF are allowed run internet services which complement their programmes. But other internet services complain that they are misusing state funds to pay for new online media, therefore distorting fair competition. They argue that even free internet content breaks antitrust rules because it destroys a potential new market.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Feb 26, 2005
Words:257
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