Spain: DVB-T for nothing

Mass media is the nicest toy for a politician. No better tool exists for mass control of people, regardless of the type of content: news, documentaries, sports, arts, or anything else. Almost any of it can be sprinkled with political messages, and it’s in the interest of politicians to control the mass media market, as much as they can, to convey the political messages and ideologies they want to impose on people.

Some leaders manage to assert complete control minimizing market freedom (only state-owned TV or radio channels exist at a state-wide scale), while others maneuver around market freedom by constraining the reach of given channels to certain areas of territory.

In Spain, the advent of DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial, or TDT by its Spanish name) failed to offer TV consumers more freedom, a wide offer of channels, or an improvement in program quality compared to the existing analog broadcast channel offer. Those enhancements would have been possible, had the technology not been curbed by idiotic Spanish administrative divisions: the dreadful system of autonomous regions.

Before DVB-T, there were 5 nation-wide analog TV channels (2 public state-owned, 3 private). Additionally, each autonomous region (there are 17 of them) had their own official channels as well (one or two). The government in power would control the two state-owned national TV channels, and each regional government would control their own public local channels.

When DVB-T arrived, politicians took care to limit its potential, as it posed a great danger for them. They were committed to permit new, privately-owned, channels to broadcast on DVB-T, but they made sure to limit the number of nation-wide channels to only a few, controlled by the same TV broadcasters already operating analog broadcasts. Other channels would be regional, or even local (city level), which DVB-T licences are managed by each regional government for its own local region.

This means new TV channels need to apply for licenses in 17 different regions if they want to broadcast nationwide, resulting in increased costs for TV operators, and a multiplication of public spending (17 DVB-T licence management offices rather than a single one).

Most importantly, however, the partition of Spain into 17 different broadcast domains allows each regional government to control the type of programming their voters will get on TV. It is simply embarrassing and outrageous to see freedom of programming completely limited and even eliminated for mere political interest.

Recently, the Socialist party in Spain (PSOE) proposed that all public regional TV channels should be broadcast nation-wide. In doing so, they want to achieve that programming in the regional languages (Catalonian, Galician, Basque) can be seen all over Spain. Nothing wrong with TV programming in different languages, but this proposal is limited to public channels, and motivated by a desire by the Socialist party to give more and more attention to the local interests of nationalist and localist regional governments of Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country. The PSOE’s proposal is focused on crowd control to expand the ideology of localism, differentiation and exclusion.

Giving a nation-wide reach to local-language (public) TV channels is fine, as long as this part of a plan to unify the broadcasting space in Spain, where regional administrations would have no control over broadcasting licences, and the nation-wide programming offer would include public TV channels, regional (and regional-language) public channels, but also including the wide range of private channels operating in Spain through regional DVB-T licenses.

These private channels have to resort to be distributed over pay services (like Imagenio, Ono, Digital+, Zattoo, and others) to reach a nationwide audience. Naturally, the pay services audience is minimal in comparison with free aerial DVB-T broadcasts. Regional governments take care to deny licenses of aerial DVB-T broadcasting inside their plot of land to unfriendly private media that might show uncontrollable political opinions, thus ridding TV viewers of alternatives to the official doctrine shown constantly on public TV.

Just like video killed the radio star, politicians killed freedom of media, effectively curbing freedom of speech. This is the situation in Spain, and there is no political party in sight willing to change this. Outrageous.


3 thoughts on “Spain: DVB-T for nothing

  1. Pingback: » How the políticos screwed DVB-T in Spain

  2. psr

    eleena, you are right that Spanish TV is not good. It has been degrading since I can rememeber it (around 1982).
    DVB-T should have allowed at least for more variety with new private channels owned and run by people and groups other than those who run the old three existing analog TV channels. The benefit for the general public ought to have been a varied offer of channels portraying different values and different political messages, as opposed to the current set of nation-wide channels which offer a single political ideology (you can see it between the lines in any of the nation-wide channles, TVE, A3, Tele5 or Cuatro).
    Some such new channels exist, but with limited broadcasting in a few cities in Spain, tipically within city halls run by political parties adjacent to those channels’ ideology.
    This is what should be changed: all TV channels should be broadcast nationwide. DVB-T technology allows for it… but politicians decided to curb it.


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