The European Commission has ruled plans by Spain to compensate broadcasters for simulcasts during digital switchover to be in breach of EU rules.
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.”
Spain had notified the Commission of its plans leading to an investigation in April 2012. During the course of the investigation the offer to compensate public broadcasters for the cost of transmitting their output in both analogue and digital formats was withdrawn. The argument was that they had already been compensated through existing grants for their public service mission, but the plans remained for the private broadcasters.
While state aid rules allow intervention to prevent a market failure, such a move must be even-handed, and Spain failed to demonstrate why terrestrial broadcasters would receive assistance, when those using satellite, cable and IPTV did not.
Spain also failed to demonstrate that public support for the frequency reallocation was needed to ensure a smooth transfer from analogue to digital broadcasting.
A second notification from Spain, covering subsidies for residents of collective buildings who needed to upgrade the existing digital terrestrial television infrastructure or switch to another platform, was found to comply with state aid rules.