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Spain eases local ownership rules

New regs create legislative framework for TV nets

MADRID — Spain has loosened TV ownership restrictions, overturning surprise late-2002 legislation that banned shareholders in nationwide television operators from owning stakes in local and regional nets.

The new regs create a legislative framework for the hundreds of local TV nets that have launched over the last decade.

They also can be seen as a kind of victory for powerful media groups Prisa and Vocento, shareholders in nationwide TV groups Sogecable and Telecinco, which have spent five years building up local TV ops.

Under the terms of last year’s ownership rulings, both would have had to divest their local TV assets, leaving the sector without companies with the financial muscle to create quality programming for often cash-strapped local TV stations.

The new rulings come with a swath of controls attached, however.

Local TV stations owned by any single nationwide investor cannot collectively broadcast to more than 20% of the Spanish population — a maximum 8 million audience.

Local operators must also air at least four hours of original programming during primetime.

However, the government may be forced to revisit the regs as some operators already exceed the 20% maximum.

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