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Spain clears merger path

Reg change paves way for single digital TV operator

MADRID — The Spanish government plans to change media ownership rules so that a single company can hold stakes in more than one broadcaster, a government spokesman said on Monday.

Change would remove an obstacle to the planned merger between Sogecable’s digital pay TV platform Canal Satellite and Telefonica’s Via Digital.

Under the existing 1998 law, merging the digital platforms would have required the companies to sell one of their terrestrial channels — Sogecable owns Canal Plus and Telefonica owns Antena 3.

Single operator

The merger will create a single digital satellite TV operator in Spain with combined annual revenues of €1.3 billion ($1.29 billion).

Competition authorities said last month that the tie-up could hinder competition in the pay TV market, but that if a merger did not take place it was likely that a single operator would emerge and would have to develop in the market without the support of the other firm.

The merger is still being studied by competition authorities, but the government has the final say. Spain’s science and technology ministry expects to announce a decision before the end of the year.

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