Spain: First regional TV switch off

The closure of the Regional pubcaster RTVV, in Valencia has been carried out with the switch-off of its signal, putting an end to its 24 years of history and paving the way for other regional TV stations, such as Telemadrid, to follow suit.

This unprecedented move will bring the dismissal of all RTVV 1,660 workers who tried up to the last minute to challenge the closure.

Financial problems have led the regional government of Valencia to shut down its public TV and radio service. RTVV had tried to fire 1,000 of its almost 1,700 workers to keep the broadcaster running, but a court ruled that plan was not lawful, prompting the regional government to announce the station’s closure.

The decision to shut down the Regional pubcaster RTVV is blow to the existing regional TV model with 13 TV stations across the country (which is divided into 17 regions or Comunidades Autonomas) controlled by regional governments and financed by a mix of state subsidies and advertising.

A significant cut in public funds, a free fall in advertising revenues, together with a sharp drop of their audience ratings and over staffing have led regional TV channels to a critical situation with an overall debt of over €1.6 billion, with RTVV and Madrid-based Telemadrid taking the worst part of it with €1.2 billion and €285 million, respectively. Telemadrid may be the next to close down if the Supreme Court rules in its expected decision in March that the dismissal of 829 workers out of the total 1.200 is unlawful.

Other regional TV channels such as RTVA in Asturias, RTRM in Murcia, RTVA in Asturias or RTVC in Castilla La Mancha are also on a tightrope with the two latter setting to become private TV companies following the Government approved a new legislation in 2012 to make it possible.

It is estimated the annual cost of all regional TV stations in Spain amounts to €925 million, including state subsidies and operating losses. The Catalonian Regional broadcaster TV3 is the channel that receives more public money, €225 million this year for a budget of €295.9 million. Like other regional TV stations, TV3 plans massive layoffs, up to 500 workers out of the total 2,885. Canal Sur in Andalucia is second in terms of state subsidies, €138 million for a budget of €165 million. The Basque Country-based TV ETB gets €105.1 million in public funds for a budget of €121 million. TVG in Galicia, €94.7 million with a budget of €104 million; Telemadrid, €71 million for a budget of €85 million; Canal Nou (RTVV), €68 million and a buget of €78 million; Aragon TV €42.4 million and a budget of €47.1 millon; TVC La Mancha, €39 million and a budget of €44.2 million; TV Canarias, €33.3 million for a budget of €38.6 million; IB3, €30 million and a budget of €31 million; Extremadura TV, €24.8 million and with a budget of €25.3 million; Asturias TV, €20 million with a budget of €23 million; and RTRM in Murcia €7.5 million with a budget of €7.8 million.

All these regional TV stations, which, except for Canal Extremadura, are members of the Association FORTA, are suffering the consequences of the free fall in ad revenues with a 60 per cent cut from 2007, and a 36 per cent fall in 2012. In terms of audience ratings, Regional TV channels combined represent an average of 8.8 per cent of the total ratings in Spain, as of October 2013, with Aragon TV leading the ratings in October with a share of 13.7 per cent, followed by TV3 with 13.6 per cent.

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