Spain to allow spectrum trading, leasing

Spain's future new Audiovisual Law set to be launched by the government next Spring will push market concentration because it will allow the sale or lease of DTT channel capacity. The move is aimed at guaranteeing the survival of all broadcasters once analogue switch off takes place in April 2010.

With Spain's present range of audiovisual laws in 2010 viewers will be able to receive in evey autonomous region between 44 and 52 DTT channels amid a shrinking advertising market.

Meetings between the broadcasters owning those channels and national government have given the solution to the problem of the survival of so many channels which is the trading of signals. So this can be implemented in practice a change in the law is needed.

Up until now according to Law 10/1998 of Private Television: "Television is an essential public service whose owner is the Spanish State". So the government is in charge of giving the licences and so obliging the direct exploitation of this public service which at the same time can't be transfered to third parties.

With the new audiovisual law in preparation, television will pass from being a general public service to a service of general interest which basically implies the broadcasters have now a wider perspective. Also the time for the exploitation of the channels extends from ten to fifteen years.

From the broadcasters' point of view this change will allow a concentration in the audiovisual field. But at the same time it also concedes legality to actions already existing.

An example of all this is Sony Entertainmet's exploiting a DTT channel of the two it has broadcaster Unidad Editoral's Veo TV. And also Disney which does the same with Vocento's Net TV - with the difference the American company has bought a stake in Vocento.

But Spain's government is not willing for this trend to allow national channels to end up in foreign hands. For this reason the future audiovisual law introduces two new points. The first one refers to the reciprocity principle: to allow a foreign company entering a national one to do the reverse.

And in the second place the new law will impose the limit of not being able to loan or sell more than half of the digital MUX capacity. From 2010 these will be the property of the six national private broadcasters (Mediaset's Telecinco, Grupo Planeta's Antena 3, Sogecable's Cuatro, Mediapro's laSexta, Unidad Editorial's Veo TV and Vocento's Net TV).

However if this limit gets surpassed the affected broadcaster will lose the possibility of renewing its licence. And all of this under the watch of future Audiovisual Media National Conseil, the association watching for the good implementation of Spain's audiovisual law.

Through these measures the government will try to give fresh air to those broadcasters complaining of difficulties in affording content for their four digital signals of the MUX from 2010 the year of the analogue switch over.

The first broadcasters willing to get rid of spectrum will be Net TV and Veo TV.