ARTICLE: Public broadcasters in Portugal and Spain were heavily impacted by austerity policies

Picture: close photography of black jack planer near chisel by Mike Kenneally, license Unsplash

The external financial assistance provided for European countries in crises starting in 2009, had a major impact for many public services in these countries, including public service broadcasting. The article written by Elsa Costa e Silva of Minho University and María-Jesús Díaz-González of Universidade da Coruña looks at the effects of austerity policy measures implemented, studying Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) and Radio Televisión Española (RTVE). The authors focus on two critical areas: governance and funding models.

Portugal and Spain have had different funding systems and governance models for public service media (PSM) and have a different provision of outlets. The renewed funding model in Portugal consists of fees paid by households and of commercial revenues, such as advertising and channel subscriptions. In Spain, funding comes from direct state contribution, and as contributions from incomes of private telecommunications and television operators, while public television’s advertising income was ended definitely. Between 2010 and 2015, RTP lost 31% of its total revenues. In Spain, the direct state contribution fell 49%.

Despite differences, both public broadcasting companies were affected heavily, the analysis shows. The researchers found several convergent themes:

  • direct subsidies have been either finished or significantly reduced
  • the image of the PSM portrayed by politicians was one of a wasteful and expensive service
  • privatization of public television was discussed
  • audience ratings suffered heavily.

The researchers also make note of ‘policy silence’. There was very little discussion on programming, content and news information. The image of these two broadcasters suffered during the crisis, and news articles constantly stressed over-costs and poor management, ignoring their positive impact on society.

“Public services media in Portugal and Spain exit the austerity era still enduring old fragilities, such as their long-lasting difficulty in guaranteeing financial and economic sustainability. Additionally, they are now facing new challenges: diminishing incomes and poor public support, and more importantly, less legitimacy” the authors write in their conclusion.

The article “Public broadcasting service under austerity: Cross-comparison between Portugal and Spain” was published in International Communication Gazette and is available on the publisher’s website (free abstract, full paper behind paywall).

Picture: close photography of black jack planer near chisel by Mike Kenneally, license Unsplash

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