Spanish TV Industry Appeals Government Order to Shut Down Nine Channels

Broadcasters accuse the government of cutting consumers' choices, while the authorities say the channels were added without the proper public bidding process.

MADRID -- Spanish broadcasters have appealed a government order to shut down nine digital TV channels before May 6, while at the same time they have informed communication authorities of which nine channels will cease to exist.

The nine channels include the popular series-centered Nitro, movie channel La Sexta 3, documentary-laden Xplora and La Siete, featuring a range of Latin American soaps.

The termination results from a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that canceled the license concessions of additional channels to existing broadcasters on the grounds that the concessions were made without a public bid and that new operators were deprived of a chance to get a foot in the market.

"The end of programming that we are being forced into is an unprecedented situation in any democracy," the CEOs of Spain's top private broadcasters wrote in a letter to industry minister Jose Manuel Soria. "It is an attack on the rights of citizens who will see their choices reduced."

UTECA, a group composed of the private broadcasters Atresmedia, Mediaset, Net TV and Veo TV, appealed to the constitutional court of Spain, saying that the decision is an appropriation of channels and violates the companies' rights.

In its appeal, UTECA emphasized that the sector produces $14.2 billion (€10.3 billion) in revenue, with some 77,000 related jobs. The industry has also asked the Spanish government to fix the situation with a government decree that would clear the path for keeping the channels in operation.

So far, the government's answer has been that "it is limited to satisfying a clear sentence dictated by the Supreme Court in the period and conditions indicated by the high court."

Meanwhile, the Association of TV Producers of Spain (PATE) has publicly announced its "deep concern" over what it charges will lead to the disappearance of companies dependent on thematic channels by "impeding the possibility of generating content for them, thus causing the loss of jobs in the audiovisual industry. With this decision, not only will they not create jobs, but they will destroy existing ones."