Sports retransmission law gets OK in Spain

MADRID — The Spanish government has finally passed the keypiece of its digital TV rulings, the highly polemical Sports Retransmission Law.

Now, all the digital operators in Spain have to do is to figure out just what the new rulings really mean.

According to the new law, approved by Spain’s parliament Thursday, the government reserves the right to demand free-to-air transmissions of certain sporting events because of their alleged general public interest.

This, the government says, is merely its implementation of the European Union’s new Television Without Frontiers directive.

But where the new law steps out of line with the rest of the EU is in prohibiting Spanish broadcasters from owning exclusive TV rights to any sporting event. This move is widely seen in Spain as a frontal attack on Spain’s first digital platform, CanalSatelite Digital (CSD).

Last January, CSD’s joint owners, conglom Sogecable and free broadcaster Antena 3 TV, combined to buy the exclusive free, pay TV and pay-per-view rights to Spanish soccer league games for $1.7 billion, the second-biggest sports deal ever struck in Europe. It is unclear whether the new law invalidates that deal.

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