Spanish Government Facilitates Merger Between Antena 3 and La Sexta

Cabinet decision eases merger restrictions and saves La Sexta from closing.

MADRID – The Spanish government stepped in to even out the playing field between broadcasting giants Antena 3 and Telecino by modifying the restrictions placed on the former’s acquisition of smaller television group La Sexta.

The new conditions mirror the restrictions placed on Telecinco’s acquisition of smaller broadcaster Cuatro a year ago—the ability to sell advertising packages that include both company’s entire range of channels, a ceiling of 22% average of all stations included in the advertising package and a three-year time period for the conditions, with an optional two-year renewal.

The decision, made at Friday’s cabinet meeting, is the first time the government made use of the legal right to counter the competition authorities and essentially saves the ailing La Sexta from closing down, given last year’s 61.6 million euro debt and a total accumulated debt since its 2005 launch of 524.8 million euros, with financial commitments of an additional 202 million euros.

The move essentially green lights the arduous merger that came to a screeching halt a month ago when the competition authorities imposed a five-year period in which Antena 3 was forbidden to market its advertising packaged with La Sexta group and imposed an 18% ceiling.

Antena 3 needed the merger to compete with its main rival, Telecinco, which has been marketing its advertising jointly with Cuatro for the past year.

Spanish Vice President Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told journalists the decision was made in accordance with “parallel conditions operating in the sector" and “for reasons of general interest and to maintain news programming plurality."