Outcry Greets Spanish Cable Law

Spain finally has a cable TV law – but few are dancing in the streets about it.

As it finally emerged from the Spanish parliament Dec. 14, the Cable Telecommunications Law calls for two competing cable licenses per region.

Spanish telco Telefonica likely will exercise its option for one license per region, while the other will be granted by Spain’s government and regional and municipal authorities.

As defined by the law, a region consists of a minimum of 50,000 and a maximum of 2 million people.

What has sparked the most outcry is a clause that restricts the number of subscribers per system to 1.5 million homes. There are approximately 10 million TV households in Spain.

The Spanish opposition Partido Popular has already branded the clause as unconstitutional and announced that it will scrap the clause if, as is likely, it wins Spain’s elections in March.

The new law hits the statute books as the key cable TV players in Spain jockey for position.

Two cable TV investment holdings already have emerged as significant national forces. One is Cable Europa, comprising the banks Banco Santander (60%) Banco Central Hispano (15%), cable service development company Multitel (17.5%) and railroad company Ferrovial.

A second is Cablevision, a joint venture between the owners of Spanish pay TV giant Canal Plus Espana (50%) and Telefonica (37.5%).

US West has joined with local partners to operate cable TV services in Barcelona and in the Basque region.

High-flying private TV broadcaster Antena 3 TV now looks set to offer a package of digitally compressed channels to local cable TV operations.

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