Approved: the merger of Spain's broadcasters

Iñaki Ferreras

Spain's government has finally approved the law allowing the private broadcasters to merge, provided such a move would not see more than a 27% share of the market between the two parties.

There must also still be a minimum of three private TV national channels with different editorial content.

The text will be taken next to the Senate without passing through the Congress.

But two important aspects were not taken into account in the text: the competitiveness of the autonomous regions in the audiovisual field and the creation of an office to defend the audiovisual consumer.

The first was a PP party proposal to privatize the public TV channels of the autonomous regions. That did not pass and neither did the creation of an Audiovisual Council because the government considers the Telecommunications Market Comission (CMT)'s role in this market "is enough".

Another amendment not to pass was a proposal to extend by 5% the quota the broadcasters have to give for Spanish cinema production.

Mediapro's laSexta and Sogecable's Cuatro are having serious talks for a future merger. Just small aspects of the deal are still to be settle, some audiovisual market sources assert.

One goal of the talks is for Cuatro to become a big national network, able to compete with the traditional ones in Spain and leave laSexta as a second channel, less generalist than it is now. Another goal is for Cuatro to reach 13% of share which added to laSexta's 6% would turn the merged broadcaster into Spain's leader.

Should the talks succeed, they would likely force the rest of Spain’s national private broadcasters (Telecinco, Antena 3, Veo TV and Net TV) to make some moves in the same direction in order to be able to compete with the new market leader.