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TV Wars continue in Torrevieja
By 04 August, 2009 10:16:00
If the likes of EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Top Gear disappeared from TV screens across the Southern Costa Blanca tomorrow; what would your reaction be? Shock! Horror! Indignation! Maybe all of these but for most, not surprise.Back in August 2008, Spain’s largest rebroadcasting company, Telmicro Levante was raided and closed down by officers of the Guardia Civil. Since then rumours and allegations have been rife about inside dealings, mafia connections, political pressure groups and conspiracy theories. With the court system in Alicante Province under extreme pressure, with no end in sight, the legal case against the owners and staff of Telmicro Levante has not been heard yet.
In the meantime, Telmicro have launched a counter case against rival Torresat. They have also been given permission to re-open the legal aspects of their business and to rebroadcast any ‘legal channels’. Telmicro have stated that during the run up to the last local election, Torresat tried to put pressure on Telmicro by asking them to add local programming and to run party political broadcasts, which they refused to do. The end result was that Telmicro was closed down and their equipment dismantled. In the meantime, competitors in the shape of Torresat, Superbeam, Simusat and others have benefited by increasing their client base. To further confuse the issue, Sumusat have started rebroadcasting to an estimated 15,000 clients from the old offices of Telmirco. It’s unclear and unsubstantiated if there is any connection between the ownership of Telmicro and this new start-up.
A year ago, it was estimated that Telmicro had between 50,000 to 70,000 subscribers. With a subscription rate of 20 euros per month, it is possible that earnings were in excess of a million euros per month, an attractive amount, for organised crime and political parties to take an interest in. There has been talk in the press indicating that the reason that Telmicro was closed down was because of inaccurate paperwork, dual book-keeping, tax dodging, missing signatures, lack of the correct licenses and even the illegal rebroadcasting of subscription TV services. Until the case reaches court, these facts shall probably not be officially revealed
The one common denominator of all these rebroadcasting companies is that they rebroadcast Free To Air (FTA) television signals however; none of them seem to be able to provide legal paperwork stating that they have paid for the rights from each and every one of the FTA channels to do so. BBC and ITV have stated that they do not have the rights to sell on their own channel rebroadcasting rights as they themselves negotiate rates with hundreds of individual production companies for the UK rights and these do not cover Europe. Confused? No wonder it’s taking so long to come to the Spanish Court system!
The case in point is that it’s not illegal to rebroadcast FTA channels. It’s perfectly legal to charge for the equipment, a maintenance contract and upgrades. As an individual or a community, many have installed large satellite dishes that can pick up the majority of English Language TV stations. Some individuals have installed small one-metre dishes which provide limited news, kids, sports and entertainment in English and other languages.
The problems stem from making a profit from charging monthly subscriptions for such a service. The grey area seem to be the understanding, or lack of it, as to what constitutes a ‘legal channel’. Ask those in the UK what a ‘legal’ channel is and they will mostly say “one that all rights or production has been paid for”.
The first nail in the rebroadcasting coffin may be that the Spanish Secretary of Telecommunications is now aware of the rebroadcasting of the Torresat Group amongst others and that the distributor Filmax is considering taking action against those using their content without the correct licences in place.
Who needs boring old soap operas and reruns of classic British Telly when it all happens right here on our door step. In the meantime, don’t be surprised to learn that this is not the last you shall hear of ‘Torregate’ and that the only way that you can sure of not losing your English Language telly anytime in the future, is to obtain your signal through a satellite dish or a legal Internet service.
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