Since 1977, when the Ministry of Information and Tourism was replaced by that of Culture, the government’s responsibility for the media was separated from its responsibilities for culture. As of 2000, the media are a responsibility of the Secretariat of Telecommunications and Information Society, titled State Secretariat of Information Society and Digital Agenda of the current Ministry of Economy and Business since July 2018. However, the Film and Audio-visual Arts Institute (ICAA) of the current Ministry Culture and Sport continues to develop strategies to foster the cinema and audiovisual industries by subsidising certain production and distribution costs, as well as the construction and renovation of cinemas.
At the regional level, the Act 4/1980 allowed the Autonomous Communities to set up their own publicly funded radio and television broadcasting operations, which many of them proceeded to do, such as:
- Euskal Irrati Telebista/Basque Radio Television (1982);
- Catalan Broadcasting Corporation (1983);
- Galician Broadcasting Company (1984);
- Valencian Broadcasting Entity (1984), abolished at the end of 2013;
- Radio Television Entity of Madrid (1984);
- Radio Television Entity of the Canary Islands (created in 1984 and beginning of emissions in 1999);
- Radio Television Entity of the Balearic Islands (created in 1984, but it was not established as such until 2004);
- Aragon Broadcasting Corporation (1987);
- Public Enterprise Agency of Radio and Television of Andalusia (1987);
- Radio Television Entity of Castile-La Mancha (2000);
- Radio and Television Entity of Asturias (2003); and
- Radio and Television Entity of Murcia (2004).
At the same time, at the national level, the second TV channel of the Spanish Radio & Television Corporation (RTVE) broadcasts some of its programmes in the languages of the different bilingual regions.
The radio and television broadcasters that are owned and funded by the autonomous regions, though not always structurally linked to the regional departments of culture and language, have been one of the pillars of cultural policy, particularly in the bilingual regions. Growing immigration, especially since the beginning of the 2000s, led the public media to seek new formulas through which to make this new social reality more visible in broadcasting and to make television available and accessible to new citizens as a means of facilitating their integration.
State-funded Catalan television was the first Spanish broadcaster to create a Diversity Committee. Its main aims include the multilingual subtitling of emblematic programmes, the adaptation of its broadcasting language, coverage of the daily lives of new citizens on Catalan channels and the broadcasting of programmes that are of particular interest to new citizens. In 2005, also in Catalonia, the Table for the Diversity of the Audiovisual was created to foster coexistence, respect and interchanges among people with different cultural filiations, and to share the experience of recreation and renovation of Catalan culture.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, national and regional state-funded TV broadcasting coexists alongside private television. The proliferation of public and private channels, at national, regional and, more recently, local level, has generated fierce competition for available advertising revenue. The massive deficits accumulated by the controlled broadcasting of the government and Autonomous Communities, fuelled an ongoing debate on how publicly-owned broadcasting should be funded and about the privatisation of their management.
From a content perspective, the media owned and operated by the government are deemed to be public services that are obliged to respect the “political, religious, social, cultural and linguistic diversity [of Spain]”. Among the aspirations of the state owned but independent RTVE are quality, plurality and cultural diversity. With the support of the Ministry of Culture, in April 2009, RTVE launched the Cultura.es channel to disseminate Spanish culture in Spain and worldwide. Budget cuts led to the disappearance of the cultural channel, although its contents became integrated into the programming of the second channel RTVE, which has now basically become a cultural channel.
The Media Pluralism Monitor carried out in 2017 indicates an overall medium risk to media pluralism in Spain. Although Spain has adopted progressive legislation and developed a comprehensive legal framework for ensuring media pluralism, implementation is often weak and ineffective. From the four areas included in the monitor, Social Inclusiveness is at risk the most (52%). In that area specifically, ‘Access to media for minorities’ is determined a high risk (69%), since Spain does not recognise the concept of a minority. ‘Access to media for women’ (64%) is placed at the higher end of the medium risk range. The indicators on ‘Access to media for local/regional communities’ and on ‘Media literacy’ also scored a medium risk (44% and 55% respectively).
The indicator determined a low risk (although the highest within the Social Inclusiveness area) is ‘Access to media for people with disabilities’ (33%). On average, the indicators for Basic Protection area show a medium risk (43%) and those for Market Plurality show some important risk levels, especially regarding the ‘Cross-media concentration of ownership and competition enforcement’ (75%). Although media law provides ownership restrictions in the media sector, specific cross-media concentration limits have not been established. Medium risk has also been found with the ‘Media ownership concentration (horizontal)’ (54%) and ‘Commercial & owner influence over media content’ (50%). With regard to the Political Independence area, all indicators score as medium risk.
Within RTVE, the radio side of the organisation has remained on the side-lines; not dependent on advertising revenues, the public service offered by its various channels (RNE, Classical Radio, Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 5) is of good quality. Regarding audiences, in 2018, the Mediaset España group was the audience leader again (with a 28.8% share), followed by the, also private, group Atresmedia (26.8%), RTVE, the national public organisation (16.5%), Forta, the Federation of regional Radio and Television organisations or entities (7.7%), Grupo Vocento (2.9%) and Unidad Editorial (2.6%). For more details see the report.