Spain's RTE under attack for ad rates

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MADRID -- Spanish public broadcaster Radio Television Espanola and the country's private television channels are once again squabbling over advertising, with the pubcaster claiming that the commercial networks are seeking to do away with ad revenue on the state channels so they can have it all to themselves.

The row began Wednesday when the Union of Associated Commercial Television, which groups seven private broadcasters, accused TVE of selling advertising at 4.6% below market rates.

At a news conference to present the complaints, UTECA also said that the reduced rates have helped advertising on the pubcaster's two channels rise almost 9% so far this year.

"The public channels have several sources of finance and that allows them to lower their advertising rates," UTECA secretary general Jorge Del Corral said. "In consequence, the private channels must also lower their rates and therefore increase the number of ads they show."

But Del Corral was quick to deny that UTECA's members were violating the 12-minute-per-hour of advertising fixed by the European Commission.

The commission has warned Spain that it will take the Madrid government to court if ad time is not reduced.

In addition, the commercial channels called on the government to reduce ad time per hour on RTVE to seven minutes, as pledged by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in an electoral promise three years ago.

TVE and the government are currently negotiating the pubcaster's contract for the next three years.

Executives at the pubcaster were quick to respond.

"UTECA has no right to decide TVE's programming (nor) manage its advertising," they said. "This is all an attempt to get rid of advertising on the public channels so television can become an exclusively private business."
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