The European Commission has ruled that a Spanish scheme compensating terrestrial commercial broadcasters for simulcasting their broadcasts during the digitisation of the terrestrial television signal is in breach of EU state aid rules.
Spain had required broadcasters to simulcast their transmissions in analogue and digital during the country’s digital switchover period, in order to avoid disruption to consumers.
Spain had notified the Commission in 2011 that it planned to compensate broadcasters for the simulcast requirement. However, the EC found that the proposal violated the principle of technology neutrality by favouring terrestrial transmission over satellite, cable and IPTV.
Spain failed to provide reasons for a scheme that benefited terrestrial broadcasting only, and also failed to demonstrate why public support was necessary when broadcasters would have had an incentive to simulcast in any case to maintain their viewership.
In the event, no state aid has been granted under the scheme, so no recovery has been required by the EC.
Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “This measure provided a selective advantage to terrestrial broadcasters and platform operators over other available technologies. This goes against the principle of technological neutrality and does not appear necessary or proportionate. Spain has already completed the digital frequency switch with no state aid having been granted. Therefore, no recovery will be required.”