The European Commission has launched an investigation into the Spanish DTT migration plan over a possible violation of the European rules by granting financial aid to broadcasters to simultaneously maintain their analogue and digital broadcasts until the digital switch-off completed in April 2010.
The EC will probe into whether the aid is “necessary and proportionate” for the extra costs of simulcasting while the new frequencies were reallocated to release the so-called digital dividend spectrum, now to be used for fourth-generation mobile services. At the time of simulcasting, viewers had to adapt their tuner and antennas in a process that was partially financed by the Administration.
Also, the European authorities will examine whether the aids to broadcasters could favour certain technologies to the detriment of others breaking thus the technology neutrality principle.
This is not the first time that Spanish state subsidies to finance DTT migration are at the centre of the controversy. In 2010, the EC started proceedings against Spain for a possible violation of the technology neutrality principle.
This comes at a time when the Spanish Government is planning to reshuffle the DTT map with its proposal to cut by half the existing DTT frequencies in the allocation process of the digital dividend. The State Secretary of Telecommunications, Victor Calvo-Sotelo, has said that an agreement with Spanish broadcasters about this will be announced in coming weeks. Broadcasters are against reducing by half their DTT channels and they are proposing to maintain their DTT channels but in other frequencies.