Spanish Courts 'disallow' Regional DTT

From David Del Valle in Madrid

The allocation of Regional DTT licences is coming under fire across the country following the decision of two Spanish Courts to overrule two DTT public tenders in Madrid and Canaries on the grounds that the licences were arbitrarily given in a process full of "irregularities".

Madrid's Regional DTT map stands adjourned as the ruling overturns the specifications of the tender that granted 30 licences, most of them, to groups or companies connected with the City's Administration.

In Canaries, a similar ruling also leaves DTT up in the air, with the Regional Government appealing against the Court's decision which in its legal ruling it spoke of an "arbitrary" and "subjective" in the allocation of DTT licences. Madrid and Canaries are the provinces, along with Catalonia and Valencia, with the highest DTT penetration rates, 27.6 per cent and 21.2 per cent, respectively.

Other Regional DTT public tenders may suffer the same fate as there are increasing accusations of "favouritism" and "partisanship" against the Regional Administrations.

The situation is getting worse as Spain is approaching the analogue switch-off deadline, scheduled for April 2010. The alleged irregularities in the awarding of DTT licences are having a significant impact on existing TV networks like Prisa-sponsored Localia. According to the CEO of Prisa, Juan Luis Cebrian, the local TV network is closing down for several reasons: the confusing TV regulatory framework, the saturation of DTT licences, the delay in the awarding of licences and the political arbitrariness in the DTT public tenders.

To complicate matters there are the accusations of preferential treatment given to Abertis Telecom, shareholder in Hispasat and Eutelsat, to the detriment of Astra in the satellite distribution of DTT to 1.5 per cent of the Spanish population with no terrestrial coverage. This has also triggered a great number of appeals against Regional DTT public tenders that threaten to slow down the development of DTT.

Overall, DTT is currently present in 45.2 per cent of Spanish homes representing more than 7 million homes and 18 million people (more than 9 million homes and 23 million people including DTT distribution

through pay-TV platforms), according to Pro DTT Association Impulsa TDT.

Today, 9.3 million people daily watch DTT, up 3.2 million viewers over the last three months, with an average daily TV viewing of almost two hours. For the first time, the average DTT’s audience rating surpass pay-TV platform’s with 20.2 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively in November 2008.

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