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Possible reprieve for Spanish channels ahead of court ruling

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría

The Spanish government has resumed contacts with media groups Mediaset and Atresmedia – owners of commercial channels Telecinco and Antena 3 respectively – that could lead the way to the possible reprieve for digital TV channels under threat of closure by a Supreme Court ruling, according to a report by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial.  

Eight channels are threatened with closure following a Supreme Court ruling regarding the legality of the way licences were granted.

The Supreme Court had already ruled in 2013 that nine channels must close down after it decided that the 2010 award of frequencies without a public tender by the Zapatero government was illegal.  Atresmedia’s Xplora, Nitro and La Sexta 3, and Mediaset’s La Siete and Nueve were among the channels affected. The closure of a further eight channels through a court ruling related to the frequency allocation process would be a serious blow for the DTT platform.

According to El Confidencial, with the current government keen not to provoke the hostility of media groups ahead of forthcoming local and national elections, Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría has held talks with the two companies to find a possible solution.

One such solution, the newspaper says, is that the government could amend the country’s Audiovisual Law to remove restrictions that limit the number of channels provided by broadcasters within the spectrum allocated to them, giving the broadcasters the flexibility to keep their channels on air even if the Supreme Court ruling is unfavourable.

With a new public tender set to take place this year, the government could also place restrictions on foreign companies bidding for licences, leading to the likely allocation of the frequencies to the same Spanish broadcasters that held them previously, according to El Confidencial.