Media Landscapes

Spain

Written by Ramón Salaverría, Beatriz Gómez Baceiredo

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The Kingdom of Spain is a vast and very populated country of the European Union, with more than 500,000 sq km and 46.1 million inhabitants according to the 2008 census. It has a population density of 88.6 people per sq km. Its GDP is at the average level of the 27 EU countries: 23,396 euro per capita in 2007. The administrative structure of the country is divided in 17 autonomous communities, distributed in 52 provinces. According to the national census of 2008, the cities with highest population are Madrid, the capital, with 3.21 million inhabitants; Barcelona with 1.61 million; Valencia  with 807,200, Sevilla with 699,759; and Zaragoza with 666,129.The official language is Spanish, although in some autonomous communities other minority languages have official status as well: Catalan (together with its varieties of Valencian and Balear) is spoken by 17 percent of the population, Galician by 8.2 percent. Basque is spoken by 1.5 percent.

Since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975, Spain has been governed by a parliamentary political system under a constitutional monarchy. The country joined the EU in 1986; since then it has seen important and sustained economic growth. In was the ninth most powerful economy of the world in 2008, according to the IMF. This economic wealth, together with tourism, has attracted a growing number of immigrants. This audience has in recent years become a relevant target audience for media companies; in 2008, 11.4 percent of the population was of foreign origin, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE).

The continuous economic growth Spain has enjoyed since the mid-’90s was stunted as a result of the international economic crisis set off during the summer of 2007. According to Eurostat, Spain suffered the fourth-greatest drop in Europe in production starting from March, 2008, to one year after. The crisis impacted all economic sectors, especially real estate and tourism. Media companies have also experienced the effects of the crisis; about 3,000 journalists are estimated to have lost their jobs only in 2008. The unemployment rate reached 18.1 percent of the working population in June, 2009, double the EU average rate.

In May, 2009, the most-read newspaper was Marca, a sports newspaper, with 2.7m daily readers. The second most-read paper was the free daily 20 Minutos, with a readership of 2.5m. Women-oriented magazines led the magazine market with Pronto and Hola at the top of the list.

Until the international economic crisis, newspaper circulation figures went through several years of stagnation. But this did not prevent publishing companies from having good economic results. The year 2005 was, for instance, the best year in terms of advertising revenues since 1995.

The economic crisis has seriously impacted Spanish newspapers of all kinds. According to Informe e-España of Fundación Orange, advertising revenues for printed publications dropped 20 percent in 2008. And according to data of the employer’s organisation of newspapers publishers, AEDE, during the first quarter of 2009 advertising income of the Spanish press as a whole dropped 31 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. Analysis of data of current affairs newspapers with a circulation higher than 100,000 copies – El País (Madrid), El Mundo (Madrid), ABC (Madrid), La Razón (Madrid), La Vanguardia (Barcelona), El Periódico (Barcelona), El Correo (Bilbao) and La Voz de Galicia (A Coruña) – confirms that advertising fell 34 percent. The national press is suffering slightly more than the local press.

Regarding circulation, there has been a continuous loss of sales in the paid-for press, including national, regional, as well as specialised, since 2007. According to AEDE, between March, 2008, and that same month in 2009, Spanish pay newspapers suffered a 6.52 percent loss of sales.

Free newspapers have also experienced a fall in their circulation, mainly due to lower advertising revenue. The drastic fall of advertising income has limited the number of local editions of free newspapers and similarly reduced the quantity of copies distributed in the big cities. These economic difficulties, together with the saturation of the market, prompted the closure of Metro in January, 2009; it was one of the main mastheads present in the majority of cities of the country. The disappearance of some other local free newspapers seems to point toward a redefinition of the freesheet market in Spain.

According to the annual report, Guía de la Radio en España 2005, (the most recent report at the time of writing), there were 4,877 radio stations active at the end of 2004. Of these, 2,655 were legal radio stations, including both private and public. Another 1,803 stations – 45.5 percent – were transmitting without a licence. There is a broad public national network owned by Radio Nacional de España (National Radio of Spain; RNE), a division of RTVE.

So far, the DAB radio broadcasting technology has totally failed. Very few people have bought digital radio devices. As such, broadcasters have invested little in that technology. Meanwhile, the cheaper web radio has gained popularity as a digital alternative to analogue radio broadcasting.

As happens with television audiences, leadership belongs to private companies. During the second quarter of 2009, the leading radio network was Cadena SER, which belongs to PRISA group, with about 4.7m daily listeners according to EGM. Other popular stations are Onda Cero (2.3m), Cadena COPE (2m), RNE (RTVE) (1.2m) and Punto Radio (524,000).

There is an increasing fragmentation in the Spanish television market. At the beginning of 2009, television in Spain included six different kinds of offers: analogue television, digital terrestrial television (DTT), satellite television, cable television, Internet television (IPTV) and mobile television. This situation, however, will change in 2010 when a legal imperative requires the replacement of analogue broadcasts with DTT.

In the initial months of 2009, analogue television still was the main way of watching TV in Spain. Main television channels, both public and private, were broadcast with this technology. On the public side, Radio Televisión Española (RTVE), had two analogue channels of national scope called La 1 and La 2.  In addition, 12 similar public bodies were grouped in the Federación de Organismos de Radio y Televisión Autonómicos (Federation of Autonomous Corporations of Radio and Television; FORTA). Each one of these regional public broadcasters had one or two analogue television channels. Analogue networks of private television companies include Antena 3, Telecinco, Cuatro and La Sexta.

Precise data about local television stations is not available because the map of local television and radio companies is very fragmentary. According to the law, the transition from analogue television to the digital system – the so-called “analogue blackout”– must conclude by January, 2010.

Since November, 2005, Spanish households have been equipped with a decoder that can receive between 20 and 30 channels of DTT, depending on the autonomous community. Initially, those channels broadcasted exclusively free content. But in August, 2009, the Spanish Government legalised pay DTT through a government decree. At the beginning of 2009 the number of DTT decoders in Spain was estimated at 16.3m.

Satellite television has been offered since 1997. The penetration rate of cable television is very low compared to other analogue and digital television formulas.

Regarding Internet television (IPTV), Telefónica, the most powerful and spread telecommunications company in Spain, has been promoting the ADSL technology by only by offering its customers Internet connections and interactive television services. It also started to offer a new service of television by ADSL in 2005, called Imagenio. Since the beginning of 2006 other ADSL operators have also begun to offer similar television services, such as Jazztelia TV by the Jazztel Telecommunications Company.

Lastly, television viewed on mobile devices is undergoing a period of technological and commercial implementation. Its significance in 2009 is therefore purely testimonial.

With all these offers and platforms at the public’s disposal, 2008 was the most intensive television consumption in history. Spanish people watched an average of 227 minutes per day. According to TN Sofres, the winner of the most new audience in 2008 was Telecinco, owned by Mediaset, with annual average shares increasing 18.1 percent. La Uno, the first channel of TVE, had a 16 percent increase. Antena 3 also saw its audience increase 16.0 percent. The publicly-owned autonomic channels had a 14.4 percent increase while thematic channels went up 13.0 percent, Cuatro rose 8.6 percent, La Sexta rose 5.5 percent, La 2 (the second channel of TVE) rose 4.5 percent), local television increased 2.2 percent and private autonomic channels grew audience 0.5 percent.

This audience distribution may change in the near future. The television market in Spain is in the midst of deep change. On the one hand, the proliferation of platforms and broadcasting channels has fragmented market. As a result, television companies are seeking new advertising and programming strategies targeting niches audiences. Once the transition from analogue to DTT television will be completed, this fragmentary panorama will be even more divided.

At the same time, there will be a historical change in the Spanish audiovisual space. Due to a government decision, RTVE, the public broadcasting radio and television corporation, will no longer show advertising. It will be financed exclusively with public funds. This political decision, adopted in 2009, took place after RTVE experienced a process of economical rationalisation starting in 2006, to manage a debt that amounted to nearly 7.5bn euro. After this internal reform, the public channel reduced its staff 44 percent between 2006 and 2008. At the time of writing, everything indicates that the economic reorientation of RTVE will also involve a redefinition of content.

Film production in Spain is highly subsidised by various national and regional governments. Despite the public aid, only a handful of movies produced in the country enjoy some success each year. Many of them are not released at the movie theatres. Therefore, there is a paradox: whereas the number of national movie productions keeps increasing, the number of people who watch these films is steadily decreasing.

During 2008, in the existing 868 movie theatres (4,140 screens), 1,652 films were exhibited. Of these, 394 were Spanish productions (23.8 percent), whereas 1,258 came from abroad (76.2 percent). That same year, 107.8 million people visited movie theatres. Of this group, 14.3 million watched national movies (13.2 percent) and 93.4 million viewed international productions (86.8 percent).

The Information Society continues its advance in Spain, although figures regarding the use of telecommunications services and Internet connectivity confirm that this country is far from the European leader in these aspects.

According to data published in 2009 by the National Institute of Statistics and by the Telecommunications Market Commission, 54 percent of Spanish households had Internet connection (8.3m households), while the percentage of those with broadband connection was 51.3 percent (7.9m households). The main forms of broadband Internet access were ADSL (74.9 percent of households with Internet access) and cable networks (16.9 percent). Regarding other options, the telephone line connection via modem or ISDN fell more than nine points in 2009.

In 2009 the number of Internet users increased by 6 percent over 2008, approaching a total amount of 21 million people. About 66 percent of households with at least one member aged 16 to 74 had computers in 2009.

Telephone penetration was total: 99.3 percent of households had in 2009 either fixed-line or mobile phones, while 74.5 percent had both types of service. There is a gradual substitution of fixed telephone lines (down 1 percent in 2009) in favour of the mobile ones (an increase of 1.4 percent). At the beginning of 2009, the main mobile phone companies were Movistar (43.94 percent of market share), Vodafone (31.43 percent), Orange (20.51 percent), Yoigo (2.02 percent), and different mobile virtual network operators like MVNO (2.11 percent).

In 2009, the rate of Internet use was low compared to the EU average but it demonstrated steady growth.

At the end of 2005, hardly 34.4 percent of Spanish people were occasional Internet users, according to EGM. In March, 2009, that number was 48.8 percent. Nevertheless, only a little more than a third of the population are daily Internet users. That said, the Internet was the only mass medium whose consumption grew in 2008.

There are a great number of online news publications – nearly 1,300 were counted in 2005 – but only few are well-developed in editorial and business terms. The economic evolution of these publications is fairly good: according to the e-España report of 2008, online advertising revenue increased 26 percent and was the only sector on the rise. In Spain, there is a general fall in the advertising market share for the printed press in contrast to the growth of online advertising.

The online publishing market leader is Elmundo.es, the digital version of El Mundo, which is second among paid-for Spanish newspapers. According to OJD/Nielsen, in April, 2009, Elmundo.es had more than 20m unique users monthly

So far, DAB radio broadcasting technology has failed. Few people have bought digital radio devices. As such, broadcasters have invested little in that technology. Meanwhile, the cheaper web radio has gained popularity as a digital alternative to analogue radio broadcasting. 

Since November, 2005, Spanish households have been equipped with a decoder that can receive between 20 and 30 channels of DTT, depending on the autonomous community. Initially, those channels broadcasted exclusively free content. But in August, 2009, the Spanish Government legalised pay DTT through a government decree. At the beginning of 2009 the number of DTT decoders in Spain was estimated at 16.3m. This number is increasing because in 2010 a legal imperative requires the replacement of analogue broadcasts with DTT.

Agencia EFE is the leading public news agency. Founded in 1939 and present in 120 countries, Agencia EFE is the worldwide leader in Spanish language and No. 4 in the world with a staff of more than 3,000 workers in 2009. Just like RTVE, it is a public company owned by the state.

In addition to EFE, there are 50 agencies with diverse characteristics. Some of them, such as Europa Press, the second biggest news agency, operate on a national scope. Many are smaller and specialise in regional coverage.

Although there are a significant number of professional associations for media professionals, many Spanish journalists do not often join associations. The press associations are grouped around the Federación de Asociaciones de la Prensa de España (Federation of Press Associations of Spain; FAPE). It is the main organ of representation, coordination and defence of the journalistic profession in Spain.

There are half a dozen regional trade unions of journalists assembled to seek improvement of the working conditions of journalists. These organisations are grouped in the Federación de Sindicatos de Periodistas (Federation of Journalist Trade Unions; FeSP).

The three most important associations of media publishers are: AEDE for newspapers, UTECA for commercial television and AERC for commercial radio.

Apart from the aforementioned media models, some new professional media outlets have arisen in recent years. For example, many specialized blogs on various topics have been launched in the online market. Some of these blogs enjoy high audience figures and are published with fully professional standards.

The most prominent company of professional blog publishing in Spain is Weblogs SL, founded in 2005. Late in the year 2009, this company was editing 40 thematic blogs, covering subjects such as technology, sports, entertainment, fashion, trends and business. At that time, their aggregated audience was 14 million unique users per month.

On the other hand, companies that offer press-clipping services have also sprung up. However, the activity of these companies has been considered abusive by the press publishers, who complain that they don’t receive any financial compensation from the exploitation of the content that they have originally produced. This conflict has led to several lawsuits in the courts between publishers and some press-clipping companies. In 2009, the Spanish justice resolved that these companies were, indeed, breaking the press publishers’ copyright, so they sentenced that press-clipping companies must compensate the original content providers with 4 euro cents for each extracted news piece.

The Spanish constitution protects freedom of expression, the clause of conscience and the professional secrecy as basic rights.

Broadcast media have specific laws regulating their content and schedules. These are inspired by European regulations. One specific law has regulated content provided via Internet since 2002. No specific laws apply to print media.

Newspapers and magazines do not receive subsidies except for some publications written in minority languages. The VAT charged to publications is 16 percent, like any other consumer product. Digital television has a reduced VAT of 7 percent since 1 January, 2006.

There are no professional councils with authority to punish unethical practices of journalists in Spain. Conventional courts of justice solve these cases.  

Three regional Audiovisual Councils were created — in Catalonia (2000), Navarre (2001) and Andalusia (2004) — to monitor the content of the audiovisual sector for compliance with the laws. There isn’t any Audiovisual Council of national scope, although the government expressed in 2005 a desire to establish one. This announcement was unwelcome by the majority of media and professional organisations, which fear possible political control. The project is on hold as of early 2010.  

Some newspapers have internal newsroom statutes. Five newspapers — El País, La Vanguardia, La Voz de Galicia, El Correo Gallego and El Punt — as well as one magazine, PC Actual, have an ombudsman. The weekly news magazine Tiempo has a council of readers.

There are no professional councils with authority to punish bad practices or abuses made by journalists in Spain. Conventional courts of justice solve these cases.

Three regional Audiovisual Councils were created recently — in Catalonia (2000), Navarre (2001) and Andalusia (2004) — to monitor the content of the audiovisual sector for compliance with the laws. There isn’t any Audiovisual Council of national scope, although the government expressed in 2005 a desire to establish one. This announcement unwelcome by the majority of media and professional organisations, which fear possible political control. The project is on hold at the moment.

Some newspapers have internal newsroom statutes. Five newspapers — El País, La Vanguardia, La Voz de Galicia, El Correo Gallego and El Punt — and one magazine, PC Actual, have an ombudsman. The weekly news magazine Tiempo has a council of readers.

In 2008, a total of 33 Spanish universities offered degree programmes in journalism. Nearly 4,000 students were enrolled. The average registration fee for the first year of journalism studies was 611 euros at public universities (which offered 45 percent of all journalism degree programmes) and 5,668 euros at private centres (55 percent).

Along with the progression of journalism graduate studies, in the last decade there has been a proliferation of post-graduate courses with a professional orientation.
Several universities have doctorate programmes in journalism or, more often, communications. The offer of professional post-graduate courses is even wider. According to the Informe Anual de la Profesión Periodística 2007, there were 90 master’s degree programmes in Spain that year. Since these usually have between 15 and 25 students, the total number of students of professional post-graduate courses in journalism can be estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000.

Five main elements will shape the development of Spanish media outlets:

  • the economic crisis
  • the process of implementation of digital technologies
  • changes in the legal framework for television companies
  • fragmentation of audiences
  • subsequent reshaping of the advertising market

Since the beginning of 2008, Spanish newspapers, especially those of national scope, have suffered a harsh drop in their advertising income, which has been followed by a significant loss of readers. At the time of writing (September, 2009), it is still unknown how the press industry will react in order to solve its problems.

Up until now, there have been many layoffs of journalists and other employees inside newsrooms as organisations try to implement cheaper production. However, the main challenge for press publishers seems to be another one: how to gain (or, at least, preserve) their readership and recover advertising revenue in a context where citizens are quickly substituting paper publications with digital alternatives. The current situation suggests that deep changes will come especially in the freesheet market, which is clearly oversized.

Despite de failure of DAB, new digital forms of radio are gaining momentum. Online radio in particular enjoys increasing success, led by the biggest networks. This broadcasting technology is changing the landscape of the radio market in Spain, since it is helping to fragment the national audiences and opening the scope of broadcasting to other countries. This latter element is especially relevant for radio broadcasters, since there are billions of Spanish-speaking people spread throughout the world. They are the radio audience of the future.

Nevertheless, considering all the media outlets, the most relevant changes in the near future will impact the television market. The “analogue blackout” is scheduled to take place in 2010. New regulations are likely in the emerging DTT sector. The impact of the prohibition of advertising in the public national television, RTVE, which will come into force at the beginning of 2010 as well, is also unknown. In the meantime, new forms of television – through the web and through mobile devices – will have to be developed in the quest for markets and formats.

Ramón Salaverría
Professor at Department of Journalistic Projects
School of Communication, University of Navarra
31080 - Pamplona, Spain
Tel +34 948 425 600 ext. 2836
E-mail: rsalaver@unav.es
Website