The General Court of the European Union has ruled that the subsidies granted by the Spanish Government to DTT operators for the digital migration are illegal, rejecting all appeals from the companies and Regional Governments.
The operators must pay back €260 million in state subsidies as the financial aid scheme approved by the Spanish Administration is in breach of European legislation.
The Court has concluded that the DTT subsides are illegal as they favoured the digital terrestrial technology to the detriment of other distribution platforms such as satellite, cable or the Internet.
In 2005, Spain decided to subsidise €260 million for the transition to DTT in remote areas of Spain, covering around 2.5 per cent of the population, without notifying the EC and with terrestrial operators alone benefiting from the subsidies. Luxembourg’s SES-ASTRA took the case to the EC on the grounds that the measure was discriminatory. In 2010, the EC opened an inquiry into the public financing of the DTT infrastructure.
Now, The Court has ruled that Spain has broken the neutrality principle, distorting competition between DTT players and operators using other technologies and has obliged the DTT operators to return the subsidies.