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EBU urges European public broadcasters to resist funding cuts

Public broadcasters should be protected from the fluctuations and cycles of markets if they are to provide consistent, high-quality services and content, according to the EBU.

They need to have sustainable guaranteed funding over a long period in order to plan and invest in content production and keep abreast of new technologies. EBU research has found that the exact funding model matters much less than the absolute amount and its consistency.

"Revenues must be sufficient, long-term guaranteed and shielded from the vagaries of national politics,” the EBU insisted. “Legislators must remember that without solid financial foundations, PSM lose their independence and cannot prepare for the future.”

More controversially, the EBU argued that a thriving, well-funded public broadcaster is essential for a successful democracy, while agreeing that the size of budget will depend not just on population but other variables such as demographics and the number of languages it has to support.

The EBU agreed that public broadcasters were being squeezed between budget reductions in Europe’s current period of austerity, and the need to embrace the fast-moving world of multiscreen connected TV, which requires expansion of their delivery infrastructure. The EBU also acknowledged that public broadcasters were caught by the debate over the continuing existence of compulsory license fees levied on the public in the emerging age of multi-screen. It seems increasingly unfair to charge consumers a license fee based on the assumption they have a TV when they watch most of their content on a tablet or phone for example.

The EBU suggests countries should consider other funding models depending on their circumstances, such as bundling the license fee into broadband subscriptions.