Tuesday 12 April 2016

Norway Accountable for Unlawful State Aid for DAB Radio

European audit authority now with three DAB cases against Norwegian government.
EFTA Surveillance Authority, ESA, has opened another case against Norway regarding theDAB introduction. With alleged state aid ESA has already concluded that the EU rules have been broken. The case may end up in the EFTA Court. - This time the complaint from an anonymous broadcaster, as revealed in a ESA letter censored at receipt to the Economics Minister Monica Mæland. She must now answer whether the investment in DAB and state-owned NRK's use of three-digit millions in this context means illegal use of tv license funding.

ESA asks whether EU legislative requirements for so-called technology neutrality is met or if the state only has reserved resources for the Norwegian DAB comrades NRK, P4 and Radio Norway, writes the daily Dagens Næringsliv.

According to the letter from ESA's Directorate of competition and state aid the state aid for DAB development in Norway has not been notified to the EU and EFTA countries, a so-called notification, as EU legislation requires.

Public support for a total of 205.6 million kronor (NOK), mainly in the form of license fees funding from NRK, writes Dagens Næringsliv. This includes 63 million kronor which NRK has guaranteed as security for the operations in the part of the DAB network that is assigned for commercial channels P4 and Radio Norge (owned by the foreign companies Bauer and MTG respectively). This is revealed in the prior agreement which was first openly available at the Culture Ministry, but later was censored after an appeal from broadcast provider Norkring/Telenor.

If the ESA do not receive satisfactory explanations from the Norwegian government, it means that ESA will go ahead and open a formal case against the Norwegian government which can end up in the EFTA Court.

The letters from ESA mean a heavy work burden for several officials at the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the public radio NRK as well as  the private companies Digital Radio Norge AS, MTG and Bauer. The Government has requested that ESA extends deadline for response for this third case to April 29, 2015.

Read more
Notification to ESA (partially censored by the Ministry of Culture)
ESA's letter to the Norwegian Government (without attachments)

Also read
DAB Scandal in Norway: License Fees Fund Guarantee for Private Radio