Enrique Bustamante Ramirez
Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the Complutense University of Madrid, former member of the council for the reform of state-owned media, 2004-2005
Professor Enrique Bustamante examined the missions currently assigned to public services in the principal European countries, starting with the situation in Spain where a state-owned public service coexists with the public television networks of the regional Autonomous Communities and some local public broadcasters.
According to Bustamante, the reform of the RTVE public service, undertaken by the Spanish government of Rodríguez Zapatero between 2005 and 2007, was a qualitative leap forward, as regards its autonomy in contrast to political power, its financial regeneration and the definition of the mission of analogical and digital TV. However, at a regional level, the exclusive jurisdiction of the autonomous governments led them to take different paths. In addition the introduction of Sarkozy's model in 2009 with the prohibition of advertising on public television, as from 1st January 2010, has led to stringent requirements and limitations for the state public service in parallel with extensive deregulation of the private sector.
The transition to digital has thus resulted on the one hand in a weakening of the public service, and on the other hand, with the growth of two large private groups, Telecinco and Antenna3TV that are starting to constitute a duopoly in the advertising market, in addition to a group of secondary private networks in a d angerous alliance of the state with the European protective associations of the media. The last straw is that the private groups that have the means to tackle the digital switchover are practically asking for public support from the European Commission and the Spanish government. It is therefore crucial at this point to recover and reassess the role of the public service.
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General content of Professor Enrique Bustamante Ramirez 's speech:
The Spanish case: between the State public service and the Autonomous Communities
The reform of the RTVE public service, undertaken by the Spanish government of Rodríguez Zapatero between 2005 and 2007, was a qualitative leap forward after its fifty-year history. This renewal established editorial autonomy in contrast to political power, as well as allowing for a financial regeneration and defining the mission of analogical and digital TV (with mandates of periods of up to nine years and three-year contracts).
At a regional level the exclusive jurisdiction of the autonomous governments led them to take different paths, ranging from the democratic reform of public radio and television broadcasting in Catalonia, Andalusia or Asturias, to the descent into an authoritarian position of broadcasters in Madrid or Valencia, constantly threatened by the demands of privatization. Also, the new regional public television stations set up since 2000 (Canary Islands, Murcia, Baleares, Extremadura, Asturias), have followed the model of autonomy, with different degrees of subcontracting that, in some cases, affects almost all of the aims and objectives of the public service.
The last two years have been distinguished by a profound change in these trends, since the promised General Audiovisual Law (Ley General Audiovisual) and the associated creation of the National Council for Audiovisual Media (Consejo Estatal de Medios Audiovisuales) were both delayed for three years and this only took place in March 2010. In 2009 the Government initiated a legislative process, with emergency procedures, which opened the way to the agglomeration of private networks, while the introduction of Sarkozy’s French model for modifying the financial model of the RTVE Corporation prohibited advertising, as from 1st January 2010, and made the economy of public television dependent on taxes imposed on private television and telecommunications operators.
The General Audiovisual Law of 2010 consolidated two complementary aspects of the social counter-reform, which were stringent requirements and restrictions for the State public service together with extensive deregulation in the private sector. With their licenses extended to 15 years with automatic extension, commercial operators will now be able to agglomerate almost without limitations (uniting up to eight digital channels and 27% of the share), having their investment obligations reduced in the field of cinema and independent productions and being able to apply an extremely liberal reading of the European directives relating to advertising.
A change of trend has occurred that within the general situation of Digital Terrestrial Television DTT (April 2010), could have a negative impact on the multimedia scenario of the future. Thus while RTVE, despite its initial larger audience share, is beginning to have some financial difficulties, two large private groups have appeared on the scene (Telecinco, owned by Mediaset, and Antena3 TV, controlled by the Planeta-Agostini alliance) that could constitute a duopoly in the advertising market. The lack of resources of RTVE is also evident in its difficulties in dealing with its transformation into a multi-platform service supplier of the public service for the society of information, which has just begun, while the regional television stations, with the exception of TV3 Catalonia, are unable to tackle these new challenges of the public service. As a consequence the hegemony of commercial television is clearly being extended to the online world with a low probability of competition from the public service.
A political analysis reveals the difficulties of the national governments, including those with a socialist ideology, to maintain their positions of public-private balance against powerful commercial lobbies that are taking advantage of the economic crisis and, the widespread criticism of the conduct of the governing parties that are introducing a hegemony of private firms. This ideological trend is moving in parallel with the progressive weakening of the public digital service conducted by the European Commission, in a curious symbiosis with many member states.
The "Declaration of Madrid" (4th June 2010), sponsored by the Spanish government at the height of its Presidency of the European Union, is to all effects a manifesto consisting of 20 points dealing with the most radical demands from the business sector. It was drawn up in the total absence of the EBU, the RTVE or FORTA (the Federation of Autonomic Radio and Television Entities) and it has sanctioned and sanctified the alliance between the State and the European protective associations of the media, which are shamelessly staking a claim to have absolute hegemony over pluralism and democracy.
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