Spanish film and TV conglom Sogecable may have won an early victory for the merger of its pay TV ops with those of Spanish telco giant Telefonica.
According to a competition spokesperson at the European Union’s Antitrust Commission, the merger is likely to merit EU antitrust scrutiny.
“At first sight, it looks like the merger has community dimensions, meaning that the European Commission would want to assess it,” the spokesperson tells Variety.
However, Spanish antitrust authorities could ask for the merger to be referred back to them, he adds.
That’s the last thing Sogecable wants. Strictly speaking, these authorities are independent of Spain’s conservative government.
If a Spanish antitrust authority has the last word on a merger, this opens the door, fears run, for the Spanish government either to overturn the operation at leisure or to dictate conditions for its authorization.
Through daily newspaper El Pais, and radio net Cadena Ser, Sogecable managing shareholder Prisa is an increasingly isolated — but still hugely influential — critic of government policy.
If the merger were judged to be a Spanish affair, Prisa would have to decide how much it can bite the hand that would feed it a merger OK.
That’s an unenviable position for any media company to be in; far better a thorough antitrust investigation from the EU.