The European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled that the €46 million financial aid given to the DTT extension in the Spanish Region of Castilla-La Mancha was illegal and discriminatory.
The Court acknowledges that the EC was right when in 2014 it initially ruled that the aids were in breach of competition by benefiting DTT operators to the detriment of others (SES Astra and its satellite distribution). At that time, the EC ordered the Spanish Administration to retrieve the funds, but Cellnex and Telecom Castilla-La Mancha appealed against the decision.
Now the EC Court backs the EC decision and the DTT operators will have to return the funds.
The present ruling is contradictory to the one of last year, when the Luxembourg Court overruled the European Commission’s decision to force the Spanish Administration to recover the €300 million given to the companies on the grounds that it had not been proved that it was a financial aid to the benefit of specific DTT companies.
The conflict dates back to 2013 when the European Commission ruled that the SES Astra’s complaints about the alleged illegal DTT subsidies were justified and insisted the Spanish Government get the money back. The EC ruled that these were against free competition and technological neutrality to the benefit of DTT players and to the detriment of the European satellite operator.
Between 2005 and 2009, the Government invested €300 million in the deployment of DTT throughout the country, primarily across isolated areas. Private TV operators were obliged to cover 96 per cent of the country and public broadcasters, 98 per cent.
SES Astra took the case to the EC on the grounds that it was discriminatory.