Advanced Television

Brussels deadline on Spain’s DTT plan

December 20, 2010

From David Del Valle in Madrid

The European Commission is questioning Spain’s DTT migration plan over a possible violation of the technology neutrality principle by “favouring certain technologies to the detriment of others”.

Brussels has urged the Spanish Government to submit in a month all information about the DTT plan and possible state subsidies to assess the case.

In its probe, the EC contends that Government’s public funds to help the development of DTT meant a direct advantage for DTT operators to the detriment of others using other technologies, such as satellite, making reference to SES Astra which appealed against Spain’s DTT plan over a possible discrimination.

For the EC, the domestic broadcasting agency Abertis was “by far” the largest recipient of the subsidies taking 57.1 per cent of all the public funds, around E196.3 million until last February.

The Spanish Government denies the charges saying that the public fund is not a state subsidy and refusing that there’s been any discrimination on the grounds that DTT and satellite are different markets and that there were not any obstacle for Astra to participate in the public tenders. Spain also believes that the digitalisation of the terrestrial network is cheaper to extend DTT, but for the EC this has not been proved yet.

The EC is also investigating the DTT migration process in the Spanish Region of Castilla-La Mancha, in the centre of Spain, over charges of discrimination concerning Regional and Local operators.

The DTT migration plan was implemented in April when Spain switched-off analogue transmissions. After a preliminary investigation, Brussels believed that the plan could break the principle of technology neutrality which requires the same treatment for all distribution platforms, regardless of the technology used.

Brussels argued that the Spanish DTT migration plan was only including public funds to finance and extend the existent terrestrial network but it did not contain any financial aid for satellite platforms, also available and used to cover the whole territory.

In Castilla-La Mancha, the EC argues that the state subsidies are only limited to platform operators that distribute nationwide TV channels. This may be a discrimination against local platforms that distribute Local and Regional TV stations.

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