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Spain: RTVE’s finances in critical condition

Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, operator of five national channels, is in a very critical financial situation with a structured financial debt of €100 million.

A report from Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI), the state body run by the Ministry of Finance to manage industrial shareholdings owned by the State, which has a 95 per cent stake in the TV group, has concluded that RTVE needs to have an urgent “strategic plan for the future” to avoid bankruptcy and failure as a key media company.

In its report, SEPI says that RTVE has “failed to adapt to changing times” and continues losing money. Whereas its private TV rivals Mediaset and Atresmedia reported profits of €166 million and €99 million last year, RTVE lost €37 million.

The state broadcaster has failed to adapt to an environment dominated by the internet, says SEPI, noting that the websites of the two leading private media groups, Mediaset and Atresmedia, have 11 million and 9.5 million unique viewers respectively, while RTVE has just 6.9, despite possessing “the largest audiovisual archive in the Spanish-speaking world”, with more than 600,000.

RTVE has also failed to hold on to its television audience. Its main La 1 channel has an audience share of just 9.8 per cent. Mediaset, which has seven channels, has a 31 per cent share, while Atresmedia, with six channels, has a 26.8 per cent audience share. TVE and its five national channels, have a total of 16.7 per cent.

“RTVE faces multiple challenges,” says the SEPI report, as a result of an environment in which viewers’ habits “are changing drastically, both in terms of taste and the way they watch content,” and concluding that the group is not competitive.

RTVE’s problems are in large part as a result of a massive drop in income. The first came in 2009 when the government decided it would no longer be able to broadcast ads, taking away some €450 million in one fell swoop. The idea was that the private channels would contribute to funding RTVE from the extra advertising it was assumed they would pick up. But over the last five years, their contribution has steadily fallen. The second blow came when RTVE’s state funding was cut by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2013 as part of government austerity measures.

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