The European Commission has approved the new tax-based funding system for the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, on which it had opened a formal investigation under EU state aid rules in December 2009. Spain abolished advertising and other commercial activities of RTVE and replaced this source of income by new taxes on TV and telecommunications operators. The Commission had doubts concerning the compatibility of the new taxes with EU law, in particular the rules on electronic communications networks and services. However, the Commission has now concluded that the compatibility of the aid to RTVE is not affected by the legality of the new taxes and that the measure is in line with the state aid rules, because it ensures that RTVE will not be overcompensated for providing public broadcasting services. The new Spanish law of 1 September 2009 provides that advertising, teleshopping; merchandising and pay-per-view services at RTVE will be discontinued with immediate effect. Spain intends to compensate RTVE for the abolition of these revenues with specifically dedicated income, generated from two new fiscal measures and one existing measure, in addition to the existing state financing of RTVE
Google is bowing to the demands of three European governments and says it will begin surrendering the data it improperly collected over unsecured wireless networks
Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, told The Financial Times in an interview in London that within the next two days, the company would share the data with regulators in Germany, Spain and France. The data is thought to include fragments of personal information like e-mail and bank account numbers. Google had previously resisted requests from European officials and privacy advocates to hand over the data, saying it needed time to review legal issues. Last month, Google revealed it had been inadvertently collecting 600 gigabytes of personal data, saying that the roving, camera-mounted cars in its Street View program had collected not only photographs of neighborhoods but snippets of private information from people whose personal Wi-Fi networks were left unencrypted. In Thursday’s interview, Mr. Schmidt said that the software code responsible for the data collection was in “clear violation” of Google’s rules. Mr. Schmidt also said that Google would make public the results of internal and external audits of its Wi-Fi data collection practices.
More than 10,000 people have signed up for Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo’s paid news application for the Internet since it was launched at the beginning of March, the company said Sunday. The application, called Orbyt (www.orbyt.es), provides subscribers with full access to the paper edition of the centre-right newspaper as well as a range of other services including archives, video reports and news commentary. The service costs EUR 14.99 per month or EUR 0.60 per day. El Mundo has continued to provide free access to the content of its website (www.elmundo.es) which is the world’s most visited Spanish-language media site, drawing visitors from Spain as well as across Latin America. The site, which is frequently updated by a team of 20 journalists, publishes shorter versions of articles from the paper edition. The newspaper expects the number of subscribers to its paid news application to get a boost from the launch of an application for Apple’s iPad tablet computer which hit stores in Spain on Friday. El Mundo, controlled by Italy’s top publisher RCS MediaGroup which also issues Italy’s biggest-selling daily Corriere della Sera, is the first – and so far only – major daily in Spain with a paid news application.
Officials in Spain, France and the Czech Republic announced plans on Thursday to investigate Google’s collection of data from wireless networks in their countries, raising the likelihood that the company could face sanctions in Europe. Five days after Google said it had inadvertently collected 600 gigabytes of data described as snippets of Web sites and e-mail messages from unsecured Wi-Fi networks around the world, privacy lawyers said Google was likely to face fines and suffer damage to its reputation. Data protection officials in Spain, the Czech Republic, France and Germany have started administrative inquiries into the company’s practices, which they said violated local privacy laws. Investigators at France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberties said they had inspected Google’s Paris office on Wednesday as they began to gather evidence. In the United States, two members of Congress asked the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to begin a review of what Google had collected. In Hamburg, prosecutors opened their criminal investigation this week after receiving a complaint from Jens Ferner, a law student completing an apprenticeship at his father’s law firm in Alsdorf, Germany. During an interview, Mr. Ferner said German courts had taken a strict line with those convicted of using Wi-Fi networks without an owner’s knowledge. In Britain and Ireland, by contrast, regulators said they were not initiating investigations but had asked Google to destroy the data collected in their countries. Google said last weekend that it had destroyed data collected in Ireland, at the request of the local regulator.
It has been the setting for many a spaghetti western, but now Hollywood has warned that Spain could be facing high noon over its appalling record of movie piracy, with a future devoid of DVDs. The unauthorised downloading of films from the internet is so rife, with film-makers complaining that a legal void makes people think movies are free, that Spain could become the first European country to be abandoned by Hollywood studios. Sony’s threat, which affects DVDs but not cinemas, would put Spain on a par with South Korea, which most studios have abandoned because of a similar free-for-all internet culture. While cinema audiences have declined slowly in Spain, sales and rentals of DVDs have plummeted as high-speed broadband make streaming and downloading easier. As a result, three out of four video shops in Spain closed in the five years to 2009. Spending on DVDs can be as low as 10 percent of the level in the UK or Germany. The statistics show that 30 percent of the Spanish population uses file-sharing sites, against an average of 15 percent in the rest of Europe.” A recent report by the Paris-based TERA consultancy on internet piracy in Europe warned Spain had the highest piracy rate and that spending on DVDs had fallen six times faster than in the UK . The report estimated that the film and television industry lost about EUR 900m in Spain as a result of piracy in 2008 – almost twice as much as the music business lost. Internet piracy was causing some 13,000 jobs losses a year in Spain, the report said
Spain’s main public television station TVE1 has experienced a bump in its ratings since it stopped airing advertisements on January 1, a newspaper reported on Tuesday. The station obtained an audience share of 19.5 percent during the first 10 days of the year compared to 16.6 percent during the entire month of December, according to an internal study cited by the online edition of El Pais. The ratings rise has been greatest when it comes to films. The 2004 movie National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage obtained a market share of 30.5 percent when it aired on Sunday night, an increase of 8.5 percentage points over the average for the same time slot in December. Last year the European Commission warned that Spain faces possible court action for failing to ensure that its television stations comply with a European Union-wide limit of 12 minutes of adverts per hour. Spain’s main association of advertisers, meanwhile, has warned that “saturation advertising” on television was hurting the effectiveness of their messages and turning off viewers. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s socialist government axed all commercial advertising on Spain’s two public channels, TVE1 and TVE2, as of 1 January. The two stations had been broadcasting 10 minutes of adverts per hour.
The UK is lagging behind other countries at providing high speed broadband and fares only marginally better when it comes to national broadband penetration, according to research
The UK ranks 21st out of 30 countries surveyed by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, falling behind the likes of Greece and Spain.
Japan, Finland and Sweden make up the top three countries with the widest provision of high-speed broadband and Belgium, Turkey and Mexico make up the bottom three.
The OECD’s figures also show that the UK comes 13th out of 30 countries when it comes to broadband penetration, again falling behind the likes of Finland, Denmark and Sweden, but beating the US, Greece and France.
The OECD has said that the total broadband subscriber numbers in the areas it covers have swelled to 271 million as of June 2009, which is a 10 per cent increase on the year, but there is still a major need for governments to keep investing in new technologies. The report says fibre optic networks are likely to be the technology that generates the most future growth in broadband uptake, as opposed to cable networks.
The report urged for continual investment, saying: “This upgrade [to fibre optic networks] is important because high-speed broadband networks are increasingly seen as a fundamental infrastructure for the economy, like roads, water and electricity. Telecommunication firms have been investing heavily to upgrade older copper and coax networks to fibre to accommodate our ever increasing thirst for bandwidth.
“The economic crisis has threatened to halt this investment just as consumers and businesses are using more internet bandwidth. Many governments have stepped in to fill the gap using stimulus funds to pay for new broadband networks. But there is still a lot of debate about whether these investments make economic sense, particularly as governments are wading into an area which has recently been entrusted to the private sector.”
The Digital Britain report aims to generate more money to fund the increased roll-out of faster broadband with a monthly 50 pence tax on fixed landlines
Zapatero clarifies the new draft law aimed at fighting internet piracy is not aim at closing down websites.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Thursday that a new draft law aimed at fighting internet piracy that has been hotly disputed would not lead to the closure of websites. “The draft law has been interpreted as including the possibility that internet sites could be shut down, I want to say in advance that under no circumstances is that the position of the government,” he told reporters.
“If the draft law needs to be clarified it will be. But the government feels that a country which wants to have intellectual property must protect it,” he added. Under a draft law unveiled last week, a new regulatory body would be set up with the power to investigate suspected illegal downloaders and recommend sanctions, including “blocking or closing” sites used for file sharing.
It also would allow the authorities to require internet service providers to provide information on illegal file sharers. The draft law has been welcomed by the recording and film industries, which say they have lost millions of euros through illegal internet downloads. But it has been met with fierce criticism on the web and by Spain’s main opposition Popular Party, which accuses the Socialist government seeking to censor the internet with the proposed new law. A manifesto against the draft law has been signed by tens of thousands of people in Spain, which has one of the highest rates of illegal downloads
EU telecoms chief Viviane Reding has warned that the European Commission would take action against Spain if the government moves to cut the internet access of content pirates. Earlier this year, France introduced new legislation that cuts off internet access to copyright scofflaws and the UK is expected to present similar legislation in the coming weeks. Spain is also understood to be looking into such measures, but the government has yet to announce any new laws. Ms Reding said that she had been “following with interest the discussions in Spain” and warned the government not to consider measures that ran afoul of the European-level protections of the rights of internet users. She argued that the development of a single European market for online content was a superior path to take to counter internet piracy, lamenting the fragmentation of copyright law across the EU
Autumn of 2009 will stick with every Spaniard as the season when its capital city lost out in its second consecutive bid to host the Olympic Games, this time to Rio de Janeiro. It’s also when Spanish Public Television, TVE, bids farewell to advertising after more than 50 years on the air.
Some European states, including Britain and France, charge citizens a TV licence fee. Spain has no licence fee. But the Spanish government aims to provide a public service station. It is hard to believe the government will be able to do this without the help of commercial advertisers. Spain’s two public channels, TVE1 and TVE2, currently broadcast 10 minutes of advertising per hour, which translated to 400,000 adverts last year. The National Broadcasting Radio & Television RTVE, Financing Law came into force on 1 September, 2009. TVE may no longer contract any space for publicity. This means there will be “a significant reduction of advertising space in the coming months of October, November and December,” said Luis Fernández, president of RTVE. By January, 2010, advertising must be wiped from Spanish state television.
The European Commission voiced concern about the volume of adverts on Spanish state television in July, 2007, when it instructed Spain to cut down on TV commercials or be taken to the European Court of Justice in the violation of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. The 20-year-old directive seeks to harmonise broadcasting regulations across the 27-nation bloc.
The Commission’s concern in ’07 stemmed from infringements of a 12-minute limit on spot advertising and teleshopping.
In Spain the limit was established at 17 minutes per hour.
According to the Commission, the terms under which Spain defined the “advertising spot” were too narrow. Consequently, ad formats such as tele-promotions or microslots were included in Spain’s “advertising spot” concept.
The Commission forwarded a letter of formal notice to the Spanish authorities. It read:
- “…Spain has not taken the requisite measures to ensure effective compliance with all the provisions of the Directive. Everything must now be done to remedy this situation and to establish a genuine internal market for audiovisual media services….”
The Spanish government did not agree to change its interpretation of what constitutes an “advertising spot.”
Fast forward two years, though, and the owners of privately-held channels are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the advertising axe falling on the public broadcaster: In 2008 ad revenues at public channels totalled 557 million euro.
Spain is a decentralised country. Two public broadcasting systems coexist: a national broadcasting television station, TVE, and many autonomic channels that can be watched only in their respective territories known as Autonomous Communities. TVE, founded in 1937, consists of two stations: TVE1, targeting a general audience, and TVE2, which offers cultural programming as well as sports competitions.
The regional channels are modelled after TVE: one is directed to a broad audience and the other to a more cultural customer. Moreover, in Autonomous Communities with official language besides Spanish, such as the Basque Country or Catalonia, regional channels transmit in their co-official languages. Although publicly and privately founded as well, these territorial networks will not automatically be effected by the new law. Their own legislative and administrative competences impact this issue.
This is why discussions about adopting new initiatives must always be held in a context of political and administrative decentralisation.
New funding system
How will Spain pay for non-commercial public state television?
To compensate for an annual loss of publicity revenue (foreseen to be around 478m euro in 2009) Spanish authorities have established a three-way solution.
- Privately-owned commercial stations must provide the country’s two public television stations with 3 percent of their annual gross income, which will raise an estimated 140m euros.
- Telecommunications providers also offering audiovisual services (Telefonica, Vodafone, Orange and others) shall give the equivalent of 0.9 percent of their benefits, which translates to 290m euro.
- The third financing source will come from taxes that all operators (from radio stations to telephone companies) have to pay to be entitled to use a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for broadcasting purposes, which corresponds to 240m euro.
- To complete the 1,200 euro annual budget, state-owned television will contribute 550m euro to RTVE.
Privately-owned commercial channels are partially in favour of this plan. They’ll have one competitor less in an era of eroding advertising revenues. On the other hand, they do not feel compelled to fund RTVE budget with a percentage of their publicity income. This tax will join the already existing 5 percent they are required to earmark for the funding of European and Spanish films.
Telecommunications providers have reacted angrily. They are willing to take legal steps claiming it is not fair to require them to fund a sector that has no direct connections with their own duties. They have declared they will charge users 0.9 percent more, which the charge itemised on all telephone bills.
How will TVE fill the space previously taken by advertising, considering that only TVE1 currently uses 270 minutes a day?
Will programming be extended by nearly five hours? If so, how? Will the news last 60 minutes instead of the actual 45? Will news shows include self-promotion as does the BBC? Or will reporters produce more in-house series?
Little insight has been given. What we do already know are new obligations TVE will have to follow.
TVE is already forced to air more content on political debate and education, boost children’s programming and give access rights to social agents such as political parties and trade unions. The new public service will have to provide the Spanish cinema industry with 6 percent of its annual budget (at the moment set at 5 percent).
It will have limited access to sporting events, with the exception of the Olympic Games. It will be entitled to invest only up to 10 percent of its yearly expenditure, the equivalent of 120m euro, to buy TV rights for football matches.
The days of lavishing Trash TV are numbered.
No longer we will wonder if we watch it because it is offered or if is offered because we watch it. The new RTVE´s financing law will challenge Spanish state television to demonstrate it is capable of providing the viewers with content fostering the values of democracy, education, pluralism, culture and entertainment.
With no commercials.