Antena 3 calls for end to TVE ads

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MADRID -- Spain's public broadcaster Radio Television Espanola and the country's commercial television channels have reopened the debate about the compatibility of advertising and the pubcaster's public service on its two television channels.

Private broadcaster Antena 3 CEO Maurizio Carlotti took aim at TVE on Tuesday, calling on the state to eliminate advertising from TVE -- the less commercial of the pubcaster's two channels. He also claimed that the state is lumping its cultural and public service programming in the early hours of the morning, when it won't affect audience and rankings.

TVE is partially financed by the state, but also competes head-to-head with private channels for advertising revenues on its first -- and more mainstream -- channel. The debate comes less than a month after Pablo Carrasco left his post at director of content at TVE, dismayed by the plummeting audience figures for TVE1, which is averaging some 16% compared to the 24% of previous periods.

Jose Miguel Contreras, head of private newcomer La Sexta, on Wednesday shied away from calling on TVE to eliminate advertising on its second channel, but said Spain "needed a public television that doesn't live off of advertising revenue" and that can develop its content "without being obsessed with audiences."

"In that way, the public television can dedicate itself to creating alternative content to that of the commercial broadcasters," Contreras said.

TVE chief Javier Pons jumped into the debate Wednesday, saying that the pubcaster follows the law and that Antena 3 was looking to divert attention from the fact that rival commercial channel Telecinco regularly beats it in the rankings "4-0."

"We aren't going to get into the game," Pons said. "We want to concentrate on our own strategy, live with the fragmentation, collaborate with the private sector and not lose our goal: a quality, independent and socially and economically profitable public television."

The debate has gained momentum in the Spanish media given that the remarks have been made within the framework of the annual prestigious summer conference cycles offered around Spain by various universities.
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