European regulators on Wednesday approved Euros 17.7m inU.K. state aid for the promotion of Irish language TV and film.

The Northern Irish Language Broadcast Fund will receivethe funds over four years, ending in 2009.

European Union law allows governments to back culturalprojects.

'I am happy to approve state aid which promotescultural and regional identity,' said E.U. Competition Commissioner NeelieKroes.

Aid beneficiaries must be independent, audiovisualproduction companies and, in exceptional cases, broadcasters, said theCommission in a statement.

To qualify for funding, a minimum of 60% of the spokenword within the production must be in Irish and every production must besubtitled in English. The product must be of artistic quality and should becapable of being delivered by present and developing delivery platforms -including analogue, digital, online and interactive platforms.

It must also reach a substantial audience in NorthernIreland, the Commission said.