SVT to charge bars for sports

Swedish public service TV corporation SVT will be allowed to charge bars for public showings of major sports events, the government has decided.

SVT and commercial rival TV4 had tried to charge bars for showing the football World Cup during the summer, which brought objections from the then culture minister, Social Democrat Leif Pagrotsky. He commissioned a policy document, which concluded that the charges broke the TV licensing law.

The new centre-right government has decided to change the law to make it possible for public service television companies to charge money for public screenings.

The current principle that no payment other than the TV licence may be charged will be removed from legislation, according to a proposition released on Tuesday. Instead it will be stipulated that licence payers are only permitted to receive broadcasts “for private use.”

There will be no legal restrictions on which type of event the broadcasters will be able to charge for, the government warned them to consider carefully when to demand payment. Public service broadcasters, they said, must not risk their “credibility and legitimacy.”

SVT welcomed the government’s decision.

“We are very satisfied. The proposition’s content reflects exactly what we think,” said Jan-Olof Gurinder, senior advisor at SVT.

Gurinder promised that the corporation would show restraint when deciding what to charge for. Pizzerias and other small businesses will not be charged for having the television on, he said.

Major sporting events could, however, become the subject of charges. Bars could also have to pay for showing the Melodifestival song contest, and music shows Så Ska Det Låta and Allsång På Skansen. What will decide whether SVT charges for these shows is whether the corporation owns all the rights or whether artists and composers also own some of the broadcast rights.

“It’s too early to say how we will act, but this proposition and the conditions that follow with it make it clear that we decide where the boundaries are. But the Melodifestival is a good example of a situation involving other rights-holders,” said Gurinder.

But Mats Hulth, head of SHR, the hospitality industry’s trade body, was angry over the changes.

“People sitting in sports bars have already paid their TV licences – now they’ll have to pay twice. If they sit at home and watch it will be included in their licence, but if they go out and meet other people they will have to pay more.”

Hulth also said that defining who should pay and who should not was likely to prove impossible.