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The Spanish DTT platform operators must pay back €260 million in state subsidies following the European Commission ruling that the financial aid scheme approved by the Spanish Government to extend DTT across the whole country is in breach of the European legislation.
Brussels has concluded that the DTT subsides are illegal as they favoured the terrestrial digital technology to the detriment of other distribution platforms like satellite, cable or the Internet.
In 2005, Spain decided to subsidise €260 million for the transition to DTT in remote areas of Spain, covering around 2.5 per cent of the population, without notifying it to the EC and with only terrestrial operators only benefiting from the subsidies. Luxembourg’s SES-ASTRA took the case to the EC on the grounds that the measure was discriminatory. In 2010, the EC opened an inquiry into the public financing of the DTT infrastructure.
Now, Brussels has ruled that Spain has broken the neutrality principle, distorting competition between DTT players and operators using other technologies and has obliged the DTT operators to return the “unfair” subsidies.
The EC is also scrutinising two other digitisation cases in Spain. One, in the Region of Castilla La Mancha with allegations of technological discrimination and even unfair competition practices amongst Regional and local terrestrial platform operators. The other case is about financial aids granted to broadcasters for the change of bandwidth.