State-owned networks and private digital broadcasters may all be drawn into a European Commission investigation into state aid for digital terrestrial television networks. The investigation will focus on Germany and Sweden, but could set a precedent for the whole European Union, with a major impact on government planning for analogue switch-off.
According to the news site advanced.television.com, the investigation will centre in both cases on whether fees paid to digital networks could could amount to illegal state aid.
In Germany, fees paid to Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems and by the broadcasters to switch to digital terrestrial television (DVB-T). The Commission said: "Since DVB-T is a technology which competes with digital television by cable or by satellite the intervention might distort the level playing field to the detriment of cable and satellite operators".
The Swedish investigation, launched after complaints from satellite TV operators, will examine payments by public broadcaster SVT to state-owned network operator Teracom to cover transmission costs. The Commission said the high level of payments might be an indirect aid to Teracom.
Fees paid by SVT - obliged by law to use Teracom's DVB-T network and to pay that company a transmission fee - seem higher than the actual transmission costs, raising the prospect that Teracom may have received indirect aid through SVT.
A second ground of investigation is that the Swedish authorities granted financial guarantees and provided a capital injection to Teracom, possibly amounting to several million euro, which could also be seen as a form of state aid.
Lovelace Consulting | 16.07.2004