EU OKs Italy’s €172m for distributing newspapers

The European Commission said on Monday it approved under EU State aid rules a €171.74 million public service compensation granted by Italy to Poste Italiane for distributing, at reduced tariffs, newspapers and publications of book publishers and non-profit organisations in the period 2017-2019.

“Italy entrusted Poste Italiane with the obligation of providing this service of general economic interest (SGEI), which aims at preserving and fostering media plurality and diversity of views by charging reduced rates to publishers and newspapers for the distribution of certain categories of press,” said the European Commission in a statement.

“The Commission assessed the measure under the EU State aid rules on public service compensation.

“These rules enable member states, subject to certain conditions, to compensate companies that have been entrusted with public service obligations for the extra cost of providing these services.”

The Commission said it found that the level of compensation did not exceed the amount needed to cover the net cost borne by Poste Italiane for providing the service.

As a result, it concluded that the measure was proportionate and did not lead to overcompensation.

“Furthermore, in 2018, the Italian authorities carried out a public consultation with a view to verifying the public interest perception for the protection of press distribution for the publishing materials at issue,” added the EC.

“The consultation confirmed that the SGEI consisting in the reduced tariffs offered to publishers and not-for-profit organizations is considered as important by users.

“The Commission concluded that the Italian measure is in line with EU State aid rules, as it fosters a service of general public interest and promotes media plurality, without unduly distorting competition.”