“ZDF wants to shrink its Internet offer to one-fifth of the current offerings.” Such announcement could recently be read in newspapers and news portals. Such reduction in Internet offerings is the consequence of the 12th Amendment to the Broadcast Treaty, which became effective June 1, 2009. Because of the increasing content offerings of public broadcasters on the Internet, as well as the ongoing subsidy violation proceedings initiated by the EU commission, the legislator had to act in order to safeguard fair competition between public and private broadcasters.
One crucial element of the amendment is the specification of the purpose of the public broadcasters. The legislator introduced the public value test in order to limit Internet offerings of public broadcasters, both with regard to content itself as well as to its amount. The objective is to find the right balance between the rights of the public broadcasters and fair competition vis-à-vis private broadcasters. Whereas the public broadcasters consider the Internet, in addition to television and radio, as the third pillar of its public functions for providing information to the public, private broadcasters consider the offerings in the Internet as an unfair competition subsidized by mandatory license fees.
It remains to be seen whether the public value test meets the expectations. The VPRT (Association of Private Broadcasters) requested additional steps in order to control the content, an external controlling body instead of an internal controlling body supervised by the public broadcasters, and a connection between content offerings in television and content offerings on the Internet.
The Treaty Amendment further encompasses framework rules for commercial activities of public broadcasters, including their participation in other companies and financing issues. The implementation of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive is contemplated in the 13th Amendment to the Broadcast Treaty.