Telefonica-backed digital satellite platform Via Digital publicly responded Thursday to growing concern in the Spanish film industry about the pay-TV sector's steep reduction in financing for both local productions and foreign acquisitions.

At a press conference given at the Spanish Film Festival of Malaga to announce Via's and sister broadcaster Antena 3's renewal of their sponsorship of the festival for five more years, new Via director of contents and programming Carlos Taboada told a skeptical crowd of journalists and a few local producers that Via had already invested some Euros 7m in 25 Spanish films since the start of 2002.

Taboada, who replaced veteran Ramon Colom on April 15, called Via "the great platform of Spanish cinema," and vowed that despite the "crisis" in the industry "Via Digital won't turn its back on Spanish cinema."

However, he refused to name any of the 25 financed films on the spot and downplayed the fact that the "35 to 40" films Via plans to finance this year represent roughly half the number the platform backed last year. "It behooves the industry to make fewer films," Taboada argued, pointing to Via's own risk in financing too many films which don't get adequate theatrical releases in Spain's crowded marketplace.

Meanwhile Teddy Villalba, general manager of Antena 3's feature film division Ensueno Films, said the broadcaster had already boarded six co-productions and acquired rights to 16 feature films this year. Among the co-productions are The Bell Chimed 13 (13 Campanadas), You Shouldn't Be Here (No Debes Estar Aqui), The Galindez Mystery (El Misterio Galindez) and an ambitious international project about the life of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona.