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Spain

Spain

Indices

EurOMo Transparency Index

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EurOMo Risk Index

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Outlets and Owners
Country Report 2022

Ricard Parrilla Guix, Ruth Rodríguez-Martínez, Marcel Mauri-Ríos, Laura Pérez-Altable

Table of Contents

Introduction

This country report summarises EurOMo findings for 2020 and addresses relevant changes up until 15th July 2022. The Spanish media outlet sample consists of (1) the five most-viewed TV stations and (2) the four most-heard radios, (3) the five most-read print newspapers, (4) the four most-read digital native newspapers, and the website equivalent of the selected TV stations, radios and print newspapers. All selected media outlets (cf. Table 1) have a national scope. The readership and consumption data correspond to 2020. All media outlets except La Vanguardia and lavanguardia.com, which are edited in Barcelona, are edited in Madrid. The sample includes public service media (TVE1, RNE and rtve.es) and private media outlets (the rest).

Table 1. Spanish sample of media outlets (n=31)

TV, radio, print, digital native Equivalent online outlet.
TV media outlets Antena 3 antena3.com
La Sexta lasexta.com
Tele 5 telecinco.es
Cuatro cuatro.com
TVE1 rtve.es
Radio media outlets RNE
SER cadenaser.com
Cope cope.es
Onda Cero ondacero.es
Print newspapers El País elpais.com
El Mundo elmundo.es
ABC abc.es
La Razón larazon.es
La Vanguardia lavanguardia.com
Digital native newspapers elespanol.com
elconfidencial.com
eldiario.es
huffingtonpost.es
Notes: (1) Cells highlighted in the same colour belong to the same company. (2) Media outlets in cells with a similar colour belong to the same media group. (3) Cells not highlighted indicate that the media outlet does not share a media group with another media outlet.

Who owns what

Fifteen outlet owners own the 31 selected media outlets. Below, these outlets are grouped according to their media group and direct owner or editor.

  1. Grupo Planeta: Antena 3, La Sexta and Onda Cero and their online equivalents are edited by Atresmedia Corporación de Medios S.A. Together with La Razón and la razon.es, edited by Audiovisual Española 2000, S.A., these outlets belong to Grupo Planeta.
  2. Mediaset España: Tele5 and Cuatro (owned by Grupo Editorial Telecinco  S.A.U.) and telecinco.es and cuatro.com (owned by CONECTA5 TELECINCO, S.A.U.).
  3. Grupo Prisa: El País and elpais.com (owned by EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L.) and SER and cadenaser.com (owned by SOCIEDAD ESPAÑOLA DE RADIODIFUSIÓN S.L.) belong to Grupo Prisa (Promotora de Informaciones, S.A.).
  4. Grupo Godó: La Vanguardia and lavanguardia.com (owned by La Vanguardia Ediciones, SLU) belong to this Catalan media group. Grupo Godó also holds 20% of the shares of PRISA RADIO S.A., the direct owner of SOCIEDAD ESPAÑOLA DE RADIODIFUSIÓN S.L.
  5. Grupo Vocento: ABC and abc.es, edited by DIARIO ABC, S.L..
  6. Corporación de Radio Televisión Española S.A., S.M.E.: The three public service media (TVE1, RNE outlet) are owned by this company, whose direct owner is a public company (SEPI) belonging to the Spanish government.
  7. Radio Popular, S.A., Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas: This company, which has the Spanish Catholic Church as majority owner, edits COPE and cope.es.
  8. Grupo Unidad Editorial: El Mundo and elmundo.es are owned by Unidad Editorial S.A., a media group subsidiary of the Italian corporation RCS media group.
  9. BuzzFeed Inc: Huffingtonpost.es.
  10. The other digital native newspapers do not belong to specific media groups. TITANIA COMPAÑÍA EDITORIAL, S.L. 2022 edits elconfidencial.com; El Diario de Prensa Digital S.L. edits eldiario.es; El León de El Español Publicaciones S.A. edits elespanol.com.

 

Main ownership patterns

Five ownership patterns characterise the surveyed Spanish media outlets:

(1) 21 of the 31 surveyed media outlets account for complex or highly complex ownership structures. 

Elespanol.com and the media outlets belonging to Grupo Vocento, Mediaset España, Atresmedia Corporación de Medios, BuzzFeed, Inc. and, especially, Grupo Prisa, account for complex ownership structures, with more than two ownership relations between the media outlet editing company and the outlet’s beneficial owners.

By contrast, in 9 media outlets (the three public service media; La Vanguardia, La Razón and their corresponding equivalent digital outlets; eldiario.es and elconfidencial.com) the media outlet’s beneficial owners directly or indirectly own the media’s editing company.

(2) Public service media, private media owned by companies or individuals, and media owned by the Catholic Church belong to Spain’s relevant media outlets.

Most media outlets (26) have natural or private legal owners as direct owners. The Spanish state owns three public service media outlets in the sample: TVE, RNE, rtve.es. The several public service media in Spain owned by regional governments are not in the sample. Third, the Spanish Episcopal Conference is the majority owner of the editing company of COPE and cope.es. 

(3) Internationalised media ownership structures. 

64 of the 130 (i.e., 49,6%) identified legal owners (cf. Table 2) have their seat outside Spain. These foreign legal owners have their seat in Germany, the USA, the UK, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Mexico, Norway, Ireland, Luxembourg, Singapore and New Zealand.

Table 2. Sample of identified direct and indirect owners of the selected media outlets

Type of owner Number % of total
companies and foundations (legal owners) 130 59,6%
individuals (natural owners) 79 36,2%
free float of publicly traded companies 9 4,1%
Total owners 218

(4) Financialized media ownership structures.

As Table 2 outlines, 9 owners correspond to the free float of eight publicly traded companies. The publicly traded media companies in the sample have a lower number of free float shares than the publicly traded telecommunications corporation and the commercial banks (cf. Table 3).

Table 3. Legal owners with free float in their ownership structure.

Moreover, 73 of the 130 identified legal owners (56%) are financial actors, especially trusts, banks and management funds.

BBVA, Santander and HSBC, the investment fund of the Norwegian Central Bank and companies belonging to JP Goldman Sachs, Blackrock Inc., Invesco Ltd. and Credit Suisse some of them.  Grupo Prisa is the group with the most complex, internationalised and financialized ownership structure.

 

(5) A scarce number of outlet owners and media managers are politically affiliated. Nevertheless, political parallelism in the Spanish media system is high.

Only 2 of the 79 natural owners in the sample are or have been elected politicians with manifest political affiliation. The Italian MEP for Forza Italia Silvio Berlusconi. Second, Emilio Ybarra Churruca, deputy mayor in Bilbao during the Francoist dictatorship.

6 further natural owners have an obvious but not acknowledged political affiliation because one of the following reasons: (1) they previously worked in press offices of parties or governments, (2) they have presented rallies of specific political parties, (3) have previously held positions of political appointment, or (4) they have publicly supported specific political parties (Pedro J. Ramírez wrote editorials asking to vote for the parties UPyD and PP, Félix Rodríguez supported Manuel Valls as mayor of Barcelona, and Carlos Slim supported the Mexican party PRI).

Nonetheless, media political parallelism is very high in Spain, although media support for specific parties is rarely explicitly expressed in the editorial line. Instead, there are cases of strong entanglement between media and parties. Francisco Marhuenda, La Razón director, is a former head of a PP-led cabinet. There are also state manoeuvres supported by specific media (e.g. Antonio Ferreras, manager of La Sexta, collaborated to spread false information against Podemos). Last,  journalists-commentators present in political comment radio and TV programmes are often designated by the political parties.

 

Type of information missing

Media outlet beneficial owners. In all cases but one (eldiario.es), the media outlets do not inform about their beneficial owners in the publication and website. The beneficial owners of the above-mentioned media groups are often extremely difficult to ascertain due to (1) the complex ownership structure and (2) lack of financial data.

Editorial staff of the media outlets. Only three media outlets, El Mundo & elmundo.es —both outlets share newsroom— and eldiario.es, inform about the specific amount of editorial staff.

Annual and financial accounts of legal owners. Only a minority of legal owners (from Spain or other countries) publish in their website their unconsolidated accounts (for the specific company) or consolidated accounts (for the group of companies to which the company belongs).   

The Spanish legal owners (64 of the 130 legal owners, i.e. 49,6%) must yearly report information about their companies to the Spanish Commercial Register (Registro Mercantil). Further, publicly traded companies in Spain must provide financial reports to the Spanish Competition Authority (CNMV). The financial reports submitted to the CNMV are freely available online and report the company’s owners, their shares and voting rights, among others. 

Further, the annual reports submitted to the Spanish Commercial Register are only available as print copies to be bought in the Commercial Register or through other private services that summarise some data or sell the companies’ annual accounts. In these annual accounts, the companies do not need to report changes in the ownership structure nor the subsidies from public authorities. 

The foreign legal owners (50,6% of the total) are not bound by the Spanish regulation but by those of their country of residence (cf. above). Except for the Mexican companies (in Mexico, Spanish is official), none of the other foreign companies are obliged to publish their financial accounts in at least one of Spain’s official languages.

Information about subsidies and  income through public advertising is, in most cases, not available. Information about the legal owners’ revenue in 2020 and the staff  is in most cases available. By contrast, the detailed amount of public subsidies and of public funding through advertising is, in most cases, missing.

Nonetheless, the Spanish government provides aggregated information about the amount of total public aid received by the Spanish and foreign legal owners. The Spanish government informs whether companies and organisations received in 2020 less or more than 100.000€ in total public aid and reports the total amount of public aid for the companies having received more than 100.000€. The concept of public aid includes among others subsidies and income in public advertising.

 

Main risks to transparency

The main risks concern (1) the identification of the media beneficial owners, (2) the editorial staff of the outlets, (2) the general availability and accessibility of annual and financial accounts, (2) the general lack of transparency concerning each legal owner’s specific amount of subsidies and public advertising.

 

Distribution

The sample of relevant digital intermediaries in Spain comprises Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Telegram, Google Discover, Apple News, Upday, Flipboard, Facebook.

 

Agreements for content curation

Few of these digital intermediaries have agreements with other platforms:

  • Facebook has agreements with the fact-checking platforms Maldita and Newtral to evaluate its content.
  • Google has an agreement with rtve.es to provide auto-translated subtitles in Galician, Basque and Catalan, as well as English, Italian, French and German, for a portion of its online video library.
  • YouTube supports the RTVE Institute’s training programme for video creators. There, Spanish audiovisual experts share tips on how to communicate properly and Spanish YouTube creators on “How to start on YouTube” and “How to grow on YouTube. 

 

In 2022,

  • Meta (Facebook, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram) agreed with Telefónica to create the Metaverse Innovation Hub and a 5G lab. 
  • Google News is about to relaunch in Spain eight years after the country adopted a European Union copyright directive in November 2019. Google said it would be “working with publishers to reach agreements”. Google has also revamped the “Fact check” section to “provide more context” (https://toolbox.google.com/factcheck/explorer)

 

Relevant non-linear distributors in Spain.

According to AIMC data, at least 5% of respondents consumed the following non-linear distributors consumed during a 30-day period in 2019 or 2020: Netflix (2019: 37.2% and 2020: 57,5%), Amazon Prime Video (26.2% and 50.2%), Movistar+ (36.0% & 35.0%), Disney+ (-; 20%) HBO (14.6% and 16.6%), Vodafone TV (11.3% and 9.1%), Orange TV 5.8% and 7.3%), Dazn (3.1% and 8.4%) Filmin (1.0% and 5.1%). According to VOD Analytics, the non-linear distributors most used by Spanish citizens 16 years old or older are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO and Disney+.

No information is available concerning the possibility of specific commercial arrangements influencing content curation.

Legal framework

The legal framework sample for Spain includes fifteen media laws – three national and twelve regional laws. The regional laws cover 11 of the 17 Autonomous Communities of Spain (Andalusia, Basque Country, Catalonia, Cantabria, Extremadura, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Madrid, Murcia and Valencia).

In Spain, two agencies are related to the regulation of the audiovisual market. First, the CNMV is responsible for supervising the Spanish markets and the activity of those involved in them, including the audiovisual market. Second, the National Commission for Markets and Competition (henceforth, CNMC) is in charge of the correct functioning, transparency and existence of effective competition in all markets and productive sectors for the benefit of consumers and users and depends on the government. The law on the creation of the CNMC, in particular Chapter 2, Article 9, related to the supervision and control of the audiovisual communication market, regulates the ownership and financial transparency of the audiovisual market.

The Article 5 of the European Directive 2018/1808 has not been transposed in Spain: all relevant laws until 15th of May 2022 surveyed have been passed or ammended in 2018 or before. Nonetheless, the new General Law on Audiovisual Communication of May 26, 2022, which became effective on July 8, 2022 transposes this directive’s Article 5. The law has not  been considered in the analysis focused on the situation until 15 May 2022. 

In Spain, there is no national regulatory agency for the media system. Three regions (Andalusia, Catalonia and Valencia) have media regulatory agencies (henceforth, the three regional media RAs). In some database indicators, the result is “no NRA” but the media authorities’ responsibilities lie with the three regional authorities, which affect a territory corresponding to 44.84% of Spain’s population. 

 

Which laws concern transparency in media ownership and control

Four of the seventeen laws regulate transparency in media ownership and control. Two regulate ownership and control country-wide (the General Law on Audiovisual Communication and the Law on state-owned radio and television), and one in Andalusia (the Audiovisual Law of Andalusia) and one in Catalonia (the Audiovisual Communication Law of Catalonia). Further, Chapter 2, Article 9 of the law on the creation of the CNMC regulates transparency in media ownership and control. This article’s purpose is to control and supervise the compliance of the obligations concerning the transparency of the ownership regime of the Spain-wide providers of the audiovisual services.

 

Correspondence with normative expectations

The project’s normative expectations are four. (1) The need to disclose information upwards to the government and authorities. (2) The need to disclose information downwards, to the citizens and civil society. (3) The CoE recommends to “improve the transparency of the processes of online distribution of media content, including automated processes” to make clear who decides the (news) content available (Council of Europe, 2018, Appendix, para. 2.5). (4) The need to fulfil paragraphs 1 and 2 the Art. 5 of the EU Directive 2018/1808. These refer to the need to disclose ownership information.

  1. In Spain, there is disclosure of information upwards, to public bodies and the three regional media RAs.
  2. Disclosure of information downwards, to the public, citizens and civil society, occurs rarely or non systematically for all owners (cf. main ownership patterns). There are scarce regulations in this respect (cf. above).
  3. There is a clear lack of transparency concerning the online distribution and automated processes of media content required by the CeO. 
  4. Most of the analysed laws do not include the above-mentioned need to disclose ownership information, instead they require only a minimum level of detail, e.g., to disclose the name and contact details of the direct and beneficial owners.

 

 

Main risks

The main risks in Spain are:

  1. The coverage of the laws. The relevant national and regional laws under analysis were passed before 2019 and no provisions affect digital gatekeepers. 
  2. The lack of a national media regional authority. The lack of a national regulatory authority for media ownership issues in Spain is important because responsibility for media ownership transparency mostly lies with the government or bodies directly subordinated to the government. Two of the three  regional media RA (those in Catalonia and Valencia) are independent regulatory authorities.
  3. The CNMV, the regulatory authority with competences concerning ownership and transparency, is not independent and affects only publicly traded companies in Spain. Their regulations hence affect only 6.84% of the identified legal owners of media outlets.
  4. The CNMC, the agency preserving, guaranteeing and promoting the transparency in all sectors and the existence of effective competition in all markets was created as an independent regulatory authority but, practically, it depends on the Ministry of Economy and competitiveness.
  5. The three regional media RA are responsible not for media mergers but for surveying market diversity and controlling some types of market concentration. This responsibility is mostly defined in qualitative terms (as an aim to control concentration). Only the Catalan Audiovisual law defines quantitative criteria, e.g. limiting the possession of more than 50% of a media outlet’s social capital.
  6. The direct influence of the state and the government via politicians in public service media because the members of parliament appoint most of the board seats of the public service media organisation in the sample.
  7. There are only recommendations and guidelines (by public authorities) to foster the discoverability and prominence of public interest content. These refer mostly to guaranteeing equality, diversity and democratic values and, in the case of regional legislation, linguistic or cultural diversity.
Methodology