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Newstalk complain to EU about RTE

Tuesday, August 12 17:32:56

Newstalk has lodged a formal complaint with the EU Commission in Brussels in which the station claims that the payment by the Irish State to RTE of TV licence fees is not compatible with EU rules on State Aid.

Newstalk alleges that such payments are illegal.

The independent radio station alleges that RTE "consistently uses TV licence fee income in a manner contrary to the terms approved by the European Commission under EU State Aid rules". Newstalk said it is seeking an urgent intervention from the European competition watchdog because it says "RTE's commercial activities are clearly not being carried out on market terms".

It is alleged that the aid RTE receives in the form of TV licence fees is in breach of the State Aid rules because RTE is failing to operate in an efficient manner so as to maximise revenues.

The complaint also outlines RTE's alleged refusal to broadcast television advertisements from Newstalk. In addition the complaint states that RTE is "aggressively undercutting prices for radio advertisements by selling them on a below cost basis".

Commenting on the complaint, Gerard Whelan, CEO Newstalk, said: "It is both discriminatory and anti-competitive that RTE, which is funded by a national licence fee, can refuse advertising based on self-drafted guidelines. Commercial stations in Ireland do not receive any funding from the state and therefore RTE should not be allowed to abuse its position by refusing to accept revenue from Newstalk and other stations. The national oversight mechanisms are not sufficient to ensure RTE's respects market principals and their predatory pricing cannot be justified. Newstalk intends to fight this abuse of a dominant position and will ensure that the European Commission is aware of RTE's activities."

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