In April 2010 Spain will start to close down the remainder of the Analogue Television frequencies, as their version of Freeview becomes the standard throughout the land. Along with the UK and the rest of the EU, it’s the start of a five-year plan to clean up the airwaves to make more use of wavebands for mobile and internet communication. The move to ‘Freeview’ in Spain will not concern most expats as many only watch UK Television although there are many Dual Language channels and movies in English broadcast on Freeview too!
Expats may be more concerned to hear that 2010 shall see more regulation of the radio waves. The EU plan is that in 2015 (at the latest) Radio station frequencies will be reallocated to free up and reorganise the airwaves. Details have yet to be announced as to how this will take place but it will also affect such institutions as the BBC and Independent radio around the United Kingdom. The UK has one of the most regulated Telecommunication bodies in all of Europe, in part because the BBC are funded through Tax-payers money. Since the 1960’s and the eventual closure of such icons as Radio Caroline and Radio London followed by the introduction of Radio One in 1967, UK Pirate stations have been few and far between.
Spain’s telecom policy has been more hands off. As Western Europe’s newest democracy, a very softly-softly approach to regulating the airwaves has been evident, in part because the automatons communities control licences rather than national government.
New Laws regarding radio stations introduced for 2010.
With the start of the New Year comes with it the ‘State Radio Communications Agency’ who have been tasked to evaluate and close down up to 3,000 illegal radio stations throughout Spain. Almost all Radio in Spain is commercial, relying on advertising and sponsorship to pay its way. In some regions of Spain, especially the major cities and along the Coast, illegal ‘Pirate’ stations outnumber the legal frequencies by two, sometimes three to one. Thus, those that are legal have been complaining to the Government for years of their loss in revenue and wanting action to be taken.
Although the English language stations do compete for revenue from the Spanish stations, as expat business centres are unlikely to advertise with a Spanish media group, some of the local stations around the Costa Blanca have been operating without the correct business licences and may face closure sooner rather than later, mainly because they interfere with and impact the revenue potential of the Spanish Broadcasters as areas they where once heard have been taken over by English stations!
Central Government has said it is to draw up a map of Spanish radio, which will allow a cleaning up of the FM band followed by the quick and firm closure of those broadcasters who lack the correct permissions! This new State Radio Communications Agency is to be set up before June 1 and then given the task of controlling the radio spectrum. Its creation is part of the AERC, Spanish Association of Commercial Radio and includes such heavyweights as SER, Onda Cero, Cope and Punto Radio. They have already presented a list of broadcasters they consider to be outside the law including 482 on the Canaries, 387 in Andalucía, 338 in the Valencia region, 183 in Cataluña, 144 in Madrid and 143 in the Basque Country. In addition there are many so-called Municipal Radios that are breaking the law as they are run by companies and not by the local Town Hall!
In defence of the dozen or more English stations on the Costa Blanca most, if not all pay Spanish taxes, pay royalties, pay their staffing fees and have been inspected by local royalty agencies. The illegal operators complain that no new concessions for licences have been made available and that many of them have submitted applications for licences but have not heard back from the commission.
Only time will tell if these new regulations will mark the end of some of our most popular stations. One argument against this move is that in closing down 3,000 stations, upwards of 30,000 people could find themselves out of work, putting further strain on Spain’s pressurised social services system.