The European Commission has rejected an unfair competition complaint from Lithuania's private media companies, in respect of public broadcaster LRT.
The ruling is significant in Estonia in that a similar complaint against public broadcaster ERR has been filed with the commission, by the major private media firms in Estonia.
A European Commission spokesperson told ERR Monday that: "The commission has decided to reject the [Lithuanian] complaint."
The complaint lodged at the commission regarding Estonia and its public broadcaster is still being processed, the same spokesperson said, and cannot be commented on at this point in time, though acknowledged the fact of the complaint and said that it would be dealt with via standard of procedure, though was unable to give a time-frame.
In the case of the complaint from the Lithuanian private media sector against LRT and perceived unfair competition, the spokesperson said that complainants had appealed to the European General Court (ECG), part of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), adding that, again, the case could not be commented upon since it was ongoing.
The complainants in the Lithuanian case, filed with the commission in June 2020, included news portals delfi.lt – part of a pan-Baltic group – 15min.lt and website of daily Lietuvos Rytas.
The complainants alleged that LRT's financing model violated requirements of fair competition in Lithuania, and infringed EU law, as the financing constituted state aid and as such should have received European Commission clearance, among other complaints.
Similar arguments have been advanced by Estonia's main private media association, and addressed by ERR's board chair here.
In essence, the complaint revolves around the fact that while users can obtain news for free from a public broadcaster, they must pay for comparable content from private media publishers like Postimees or Delfi.
Were the complaint to be upheld in Estonia's case it could lead to the removal of full news articles, to be replaced by short summaries and links to TV or radio spots. Another additional issue would be that while this would apply to the Estonian language, it may not do to news in Russian or English, meaning that ERR would be left with full news articles only in languages other than the official state tongue.
Editor: Andrew Whyte