Spain: New law for public TV

Spain's government intends to launch a new law fixing public service content in the public broadcasters within the Audiovisual General Law due to be implemented next year.

Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega is backing this new legislation by aspiring to reach a consensus among all the actors. But the new law will also regulate the private broadcasters and it will adjusted to EU's Without Frontiers Television Law.

For the first time the new law will differentiate public from private audiovisual contents in order to avoid the same programming. So state-financed regional and national broadcasters will have to abide by a public service concept.

National broadcaster Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) and the thirteen regional public broadcasters spend €1,000 million per year so they will have to justify this money from when the law becomes operative.

Also national public broadcaster TVE will cut down on advertising little by little until it is ad free. So for next year the broadcaster will only have 10 minutes of ads per hour compared with the 12 minutes per hour of commercial broadcasters. In ten years’ time the advertisements on RTVE could be zero.

The Commercial Televisions Union (UTECA) the association watching for the interests of private broadcasters want the regional public television channels to follow the same future model as RTVE's but for the moment each applies its own laws. So the new law will unify the criteria because it will be a general law.

The problem comes when trying to fix TV's financial model. Here some experts suggest financing public broadcasters through a tax on private TV channels' incomes taking into account Mediaset's Telecinco and Grupo Planeta's Antena 3 won more than €500 million last year in total.

Under the proposed scheme, private broadcasters' would be better off because they would share a piece of the advertising cake which at present goes to the public broadcasters. Last year TVE had ad revenues of €713 million and the public regional TV channels €350 million according to consultants InfoAdex.

But more than half of Spain's audiovisual actors are in favour of a mixed formula to finance national public broadcaster RTVE, according to a recent study by university IESE. This means including advertising and public money. IESE also said 65% of those asked were in favour of pay-DTT, especially pay-per-view.

Also the new law will legislate new technologies applied to television such as mobile TV.

The government also wants to set up a regulator, the Audiovisual Media Conseil which it wants to be independent such as in the rest of Europe. In Spain there are only such conseils in the regions of Cataluña, Andalucía and Navarra. Such national Conseil will watch over the entrepreneurial transparency and guarantee compliance with programming quotas (those addressed to children included), advertising limits and the investments in Spaniard cinema from the TV channels. Currently, the Ministry of Industry regulates the sector.