Spain: Our TV policy is a national embarrassment

“Instability”and “uncertainty” are the main words used by the Spanish private TV broadcasters to define the TV policy the Administration is implementing. UTECA, the private TV Association, has urged the government to clarify the TV map to avoid “sending out (outside of Spain) a message of instability, lack of definition and a clear regulation” to the detriment of the public image of Spain, in the words of Antonio Fernández-Galiano, president of UTECA.

The EC’s refutation of the government’s DTT subsidies has been the last straw and Spain is now facing several challenges in the TV market. The first is the new DTT map following the Supreme Court’s decision to annul at least nine DTT licences which could eventually be up to 17 licences. Now, the Administration has to decide what to do to comply with the Court’s ruling, but a reorganisation of the DTT market is for sure. Linked to the new DTT map is the allocation of the digital dividend to be completed before January 2014.

The situation of the pubcaster RTVE is another issue. The EC is likely to make a decision over the next weeks about whether the telco tax approved by the government to finance RTVE is acceptable or not. If not, the Administration will have to change the public model of RTVE allowing it to exploit advertising revenues. UTECA is fiercely against this latter possibility as it estimates that it would mean that the private broadcasters would lose around €200 million at a time when ad revenues have decreased by 50 per cent.

Also, Spain’s private TV broadcasters are crying out against the taxes they have to pay on the grounds that they are “discriminatories” and very harmful to their businesses. The stations are obliged by law to dedicate 5 per cent of their annual revenues to financing domestic and European film productions and 0.9 per cent to financially support the pubcaster RTVE. As a whole, every year they pay out around €350 million, 13.3 per cent of their revenues, according to a report made by the consultancy firm Arthur D.Little.

Over the last 12 years they have paid around €1.8 billion to cinema productions; €117 million in 2010. Since 2009, private TV channels are obliged to dedicate 0.9 per cent of their revenues to financing RTVE representing a total of €180 million so far. In 2012, FTA TV stations had to pay €44.7 million to RTVE whereas pay TV operators paid €16.8 million, according to CMT.

In addition to this, the broadcasters have to pay the rights management companies €190 million a year. UTECA, the private TV Association, has urged the government to step in and remove some of those taxes obligations, above all, at a time when TV ad revenues are in free fall with a drop of around 18 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

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