EU antitrust regulators studying D-Day TV cost row

BRUSSELS Tue Jun 3, 2014 2:39pm EDT

An history enthusiast, wearing a U.S. World War  Two uniform rides a vintage motorbike in the streets in Arromanches, on the Normandy coast June 1, 2014.   REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

An history enthusiast, wearing a U.S. World War Two uniform rides a vintage motorbike in the streets in Arromanches, on the Normandy coast June 1, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union regulators are reviewing several complaints about the cost of access to this week's 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings to see if this breaches the bloc's antitrust and telecoms rules.

France will on Friday host the United States' Barack Obama, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Russia's Vladimir Putin and other world leaders for a day of events around the beaches of Normandy, where Allied troops in 1944 mounted history's largest amphibious assault to speed the end of World War Two.

However French broadcasters' handling of the so-called pool - the widespread arrangement under which media groups agree to share material - has triggered criticism and fears of hefty access charges from an international group of commercial broadcasters and global news agencies.

While Europe's national, often publicly-run broadcasters can secure access to the images via the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), commercial stations and the news agencies that distribute such coverage around the world said the arrangements for them were still surrounded in confusion.

The European Commission said it was aware of the grievances.

"The Commission can confirm that it has received and is assessing complaints regarding this issue," said Antoine Colombani, spokesman for competition policy. He declined to name the complainants.

Privately-held French broadcaster TF1 and France 2 of the state-run France Televisions group at first asked for fees ranging up to 61,000 euros ($83,000) for access to certain D-Day events, according to charge sheets seen by Reuters.

After early protests, President Francois Hollande's office intervened on Friday to say the main ceremony would be available to foreign stations for free. Separately, the U.S. government assured agencies access on a par with the French pool for a ceremony at the U.S. cemetery in the town of Colleville-sur-Mer.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by William Hardy)

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