EU probes French digital TV channel allocations

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European Union competition authorities on Tuesday questioned France's allocation of digital space for extra channels to some of its biggest commercial broadcasters.

European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the commission had "opened infringement proceedings" by writing to France seeking answers on national decisions it fears may be at odds with European single market competition principles.

The probe covers the award of extra digital frequencies to TF1, M6 and Canal+, with Paris given two months in which to provide answers to EU investigators.

They are focusing on "an aspect of French law that allows private-sector analogue channels to receive, by way of compensation under digital switchover, an additional channel," Torres said.

EU law holds that the attribution of licences should be "objective, non-discriminatory and proportional."

Paris-based media analyst Jean-Baptiste Sergeant of Gilbert Dupont said the probe was "bad news for TF1, M6 and Canal+" and said "NRJ Group and NextRadioTV should be the first beneficiaries" because of their limited presence to-date on France's digital television spectrum.

© 2010 AFP

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