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Under Pressure? An analysis of the impact of European State aid policy on public service broadcasting. Marginalisation or revival as public service media?

Friday, 21 May, 2010 - 15:30
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Arts and Philosophy
Karen Donders
phd defence

In this PhD Karen Donders investigates whether and how the European
Commission has affected Member States’ regulation and policy for public
broadcasting organisations on the basis of EU State aid rules. Three questions
are at the core of this research. Firstly, which topics, priorities and trends can be
identified in the European Commission’s policies? Secondly, is State aid policy in
the area of public service broadcasting resulting in a marginalisation of public
broadcasters’ activities or is it, on the contrary, furthering good governance
principles and a sustainable public service media project? Thirdly, what will be
the foreseeable future effects of European State aid policy on public service

Overall, scholars in the field of communication sciences, public broadcasters and
Member States’ ministries of media fear the European Commission’s
interventions. Private broadcasters and, increasingly so, publishers feel the
Commission’s intervention is not fargoing enough. After over 15 years of State
aid intervention in the field of public service broadcasting, this PhD challenges
the dominant observation that State aid policy damages the holistic public
broadcasting project that is well entrenched in Western Europe (so far) and
argues that the application of the State aid rules has furthered public interest
objectives. In fact, the dynamics underlying Commission investigations into the
funding of public broadcasting organisations and the closure thereof – even
though based on a competition rationale – fosters the emergence of a sustainable
public service media project.

The PhD consists of five main building blocks. It, firstly, contextualises the
evolutions public broadcasters have gone through and defines what is meant by
‘public service media’. Secondly, the legal framework within which the European
Commission can tackle Member States’ public broadcasting policy is assessed.
Thirdly, the Commission’s policies are analysed from a historical angle and a
more detailed thematic perspective (focusing on all decisions of the European
Commission in this area). Fourthly, for both Germany and Flanders the
regulation and policy for public service broadcasting before and after European
Commission involvement is scrutinised and evaluated. Finally, some conclusions
with regard to the research argument are presented and a number of policy
recommendations presented.