Yesterday (July 3) marked the deadline for applications for the two new free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) licences to be awarded by the Spanish government before November 30.

The Ministry of Science and Technology had postponed the deadline by a month, ostensibly to motivate competitors to form joint consortia. They didn't: five different groups - representing a range of domestic as well as international interests - applied for the new ten-year licences. The groups and their leading media-related backers are:

  • Horizonte Digital, a largely Catalan consortium led by Grupo Godo (publisher of La Vanguardia newspaper) and Swedish firm Centrum Elektronisk, with a reduced participation by Media Park and the backers of the Planeta publishing and audiovisual group, Corporacion Accionarial Lara.
  • Veo Television, backed by Recoletos and publishing firm Unedisa (El Mundo newspaper).
  • Net TV, spearheaded by publisher Prensa Espanola (ABC newspaper), Pantalla Digital (producers Grupo Arbol/Globomedia and Telson/Cartel), producer Europroducciones, and international TV partners from France (TFI) and Portugal (SIC).
  • Cope, led by Church-backed Radio Popular Cope.
  • Telecomunicaciones Comver, a new consortium led by Swedish broadcasting group Scandinavian Broadcasting System (SBS).
  • The entry of two new DTT platforms will change the face of Spain's TV landscape. Broadcasters are fearful of the negative effects which increased competition for publicity, product and audiences will bring about.

    Backers of Spain's private networks - including Telefonica (Via Digital and Antena 3), Sogecable (Canal Plus and Canal Satelite Digital) and Gestevision Telecinco (Tele5) - joined together through private TV lobby UTECA last month to dispute their official exclusion from the contest for the new licences.

    Similar arguments surrounded the concession in October, 1999 of Spain's first DTT license to Onda Digital (Retevision). The 14-channel platform, Europe's second DTT operator, launched in May as Quiero TV.

    Adding to the mix, all of Spain's broadcasters are required to transfer to digital technology within the decade. Two new licences for digital terrestrial radio will also be awarded in November.