Against all odds Spain's Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce has given its green light to a pay-TV system on the nation's digital terrestrial TV scheme. El Pais reports that the move, which was not even on the agenda at a meeting yesterday (June 17) of the Advisory Council on Telecommunications and the Information Society (Catsi), took delegates by surprise and will now be included in a Royal Decree. Spain is proposing a law which will allow broadcasters to exploit "in all possible ways" one of the channels in the new digital terrestrial mux for pay DTT.

The audiovisual electronic manufacturers have wanted this new law for months. Also backing the project is Mediapro's laSexta and Grupo Planeta Antena 3, which both formally requested it some weeks ago. Unidad Editorial's Veo TV later added its weight to the lobbying.

It has already been criticised by a number of leading Spanish media players including Sogecable, Telefónica, Ono, Orange and Vodafone. According to Prisa, Sogecable’s owner, “it caps a series of policy changes that benefits only a few audiovisual operators, those of terrestrial TV, to the detriment of satellite operators, cable and DSL.” The country's main media group Prisa (owner of Sogecable and main national newspaper "El País") is not in favour, and says it will formally object. The fact is that Prisa is trying to sell out its satellite digital pay TV operation Digital+ and this new law could endanger that plan. Prisa's debts amounts to some €5bn, with the banks pressing for payment.

On the other hand, however, a major beneficiary of the government's plan is production company
laSexta's Mediapro, which will be then able to finally commercialize its pay TV sporting channel Gol TV. Gol TV owns Spain's main soccer rights and which has already announced plans for a new channels to start transmission this August coinciding with the beginning of the soccer season.

The new project law also opens the door for HDTV over DTT. The draft law says that all new TV sets over 21 inches in size must incorporate an HD tuner from April 1st next year.