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March 27, 2014

European Commission backs state funding for news agencies after complaint against AFP

By Paul McNally

The European Commission has ruled that the French news agency AFP can continue to receive tens of millions of euros of state funding – after a four-year legal dispute with a German rival.
The now-defunct DAPD agency in Germany lodged a complaint in February 2010, arguing that AFP's public financing from the French government was unfair.
The Commission in Brussels ruled today that AFP could continue to receive state aid as a provider of a public service – but that it must comply with EU competition rules.
AFP receives about 40 per cent of its revenue from government subscriptions to the newswire, used in ministries and other public offices.
The Commission says it has written to the French government to ensure that "subscriptions paid by the state are not tantamount to disguised subsidies".
It says any money paid by the French state must be "justified by public service missions".
AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said: "This decision is a crucial moment for AFP. It ends four years of uncertainty and secures the agency’s public financing, which is essential if it is to carry out its missions.”
"It was important that all of our activities are covered by the missions of general interest, whatever the platform, the language, the origin or the destination of the news. This recognition confirms the unified nature of our activities."
AFP employs 2,260 staff and is the world's third largest news agency by revenue behind Reuters and AP. It is in discussions with the French state to define its missions for the next four years.

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