EC Clears Huge French Aid For Multimedia Search Project

The European Commission has cleared France’s 99 million euro state aid for Quaero, a Euro-centric multimedia search index being built by a consortium of electronics and 22 other companies. Former French president Jacques Chirac agreed to fund Thomson (NYSE: TOC) for the project back in 2005 – a classic Francophone attempt to build an online service to safeguard European culture from Silicon Valley.

After the inevitable check of its state aid rules, the EC said the project in fact “brings positive externalities for the community as a whole” (translation: it’s a good thing). Quaero will build a service to search audio, images and video, including professional/academic search services and historical A/V. It will cost 199 million euros over five years but sounds like it will have mostly commercial benefits: “Quaero will ultimately enable Thomson to enhance its commercial range of internet protocol audiovisual content distribution platforms (IPTV, video on demand, etc.) and of digital multimedia content management systems. The clients targeted by Thomson are chiefly IP network operators, content distributors and film production studios.” Via release.

Nevertheless, EC competition commissioner Neelie Kroes: “The objective of the Quaero project is to improve key technologies for processing digital multimedia content. We are confident that the positive contribution the programme will make to European research will outweigh any distortion of competition caused by the aid.”