Country Profile: Spain

Basic data

Population: 47.04 million (ranks 27th worldwide, CIA Factbook 2012)
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Largest Cities: Madrid (5.7 million), Barcelona (5.0), Valencia (0.81)
Government: Constitutional monarchy with a bicameral system, 17 autonomous regions, two autonomous cities
Head of State: King Juan Carlos (since November 1975)
Prime Minister: Mariano Rajoy (PP, since December 2011)
EU member since: 1986
Unemployment rate: 27.6% (as of April 2013)
Debt: 2013: 1025.9 billion euros, 2007: 382.3 billion (source: IMF)
Budget balance to GDP ratio: 2013: -5.8%; 2009: - 11.2, 2007: +1.2
Share of global GDP: 2002: 2.16%, 2012: 1.7%
Total advertising expenditures: 9.3 billion euros (Online 1.1, ZenithOptimedia 2010)
Television time per capita per day: 269 minutes (November 2012)
Average of daily newspapers readers: 14,2 million (source: Estudio General de Medios (EGM)).
Largest media and telecommunications companies:
Telefónica, Grupo PRISA, Unidad Editorial, Grupo Planeta, Grupo Vocento, Grupo Zeta, Grupo Godó, Mediaset.


In the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, Spain's media system has been characterized for several years by downsizing, declining sales and profits, a "press crisis" and government intervention. The dependence of media companies on  bank loans and other lines of investment has increased dramatically, while the conservative Spanish government is editorially and financially (through austerity measures and unpopular sackings of staff) snatching at the RTVE public broadcasting. In principle, one can use the example of Spain to analyze how much the journalistic system proves cataclysmic in times of economic crisis as the dependent variable of political and economic structures. In Spain, the dismissals of journalists at the prestigious left-leaning journal El Pais brought worldwide attention; some 130 reporters and editors were laid off, representing a third of the journalistic workforce. This led to strikes and public protests among remaining staff. The parent of El Pais, PRISA, is currently around three billion euros (net) in debt. In March 2010 the German-American financial investor Nicolas Berggruen entered the Liberty investment fund with around 650 million euros. The structural changes to PRISA (away from traditional journalism and towards pay-TV and internet businesses) were justified by the 68 year old CEO Juan Luis Cebrián (annual salary with bonuses: 13 million euros) as follows: "He who has no Twitter account, has no business being here. Those over 50 don’t have the professional profile for our intended newspaper model ".

In the Spanish media market, advertising revenue fell by 20.6% in 2012 alone. The collapse of the traditional print advertising business can not initially be compensated by increases in online advertising revenue. Overall, however, the circulation numbers of newspaper are still relatively high and have even in part increased (see table I). Still, PRISA, the largest Spanish media group, is focused on reaching the lucrative Latin American business ("Latam" turnover was 26.7% of the total revenue from PRISA in 2012) and on the development of pay-TV and video-on-demand (VOD) with Canal Plus, in addition to the internet-based "knowledge market" (education, databases, etc.).

In the television market, the public broadcasting station RTVE has a market share only totalling around 16%. Spanish television, with the exclusion of TV advertising in 2010, is financed by a direct state subsidy of € 550 million plus a tax on telecommunications companies (0.9%) and private channels (3%). For the year 2013 it has a general budget of 941 million Euros. According to critics, the direct influence of the Rajoy cabinet on programming is quite significant, as demonstrated by the dismissal of the popular anchorwoman and interviewer Ana Pastor and the RTVE news bosses Francisco Llorente in the summer of 2012.

According to journalists' organizations, about 8,500 Spanish journalists overall have lost their jobs in the past three years. Despite this, there is effective critical journalism: reports in the two major newspapers (El Pais and El Mundo) and political journals have exposed corruption in the two main parties Partido Popular (PP) and Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), leading to the aggravation of the crisis over the legitimacy of the Rajoy cabinet and two-party system that is the trademark of Spanish politics. Spain continues to have an extremely high rate of unemployment (of 27,1% - more than 6 million people are unemployment) compared to the rest of the EU (with the exception of Greece), and constant mass demonstrations, like the 'Indignados' movement (named after the Stéphane Hessel rebellion manifesto) that emerged in May 2011 are noticeable counteractions. This additionally points to a fundamental skepticism among the Spanish public about the benefits of the journalistic media – the media’s associations with a banking sector in dire need of restructuring are seen as not necessarily credible.

Historical foundations

Spain first became a parliamentary democracy at the end of the era of dictator ("El Caudillo") Franco in 1976. Francisco Franco had reigned from just after the Spanish Civil War of 1936 until his death in 1975, and had controlled the mass media in the same nature as fascist control in Germany and Italy (seizure of Republican newspapers, censorship, creation of a central trade register for journalists, professional courts of the press). However, 70% of the daily newspapers were left privately owned (ie. by conservative publisher families, Catholic Church). Thus, there are still papers today like La Vanguardia (an organ of the Catalan bourgeoisie, in the hands of the Godo family since 1881) or the monarchist newspapers ABC and La Razón. Also on the radio the Franco administration allowed some some private channels for business and social groups with pacts with the Nationalists to exist alongside the state's "Radio Nacional de Espana". In the realm of television broadcasting, the "Television Espanola", controlled by Franco’s Information Ministry, began its regular broadcasting in 1956 and from 1959 on allowed commercial television advertising, mainly due to the influence of U.S. consultants.

A key player in the transformation of journalistic media and its regulation in the Franco era was the "eternal" Manuel Fraga Iribarne (1922 - 2012), who served from 1962 to 1969 as a Spanish misiter of tourism and information. Under Fraga's patronage, a new information law with some (if only nominal) liberalization was created in 1966, although even in 1968, the Opus Dei-owned newspaper Madrid was banned after it recommended in May of that year that the French President de Gaulle should have a "timely" withdrawal - which could well have also been meant in veiled relation to Franco. Fraga, who from 1989 – 2005 served as head of the government of the autonomous region of Galicia, and other strategists recognized that Franco's dictatorship was in decline and Spain would eventually fit into a European democracy, and subsequently began to modernize Francoism in the late 1960s. In a famous epoch of “Transicion”, the largely bloodless transition from Franco's rule to parliamentary democracy,  Fraga even acquired shares in El Pais, the newly formed flagship of the liberal press which was initially conceived of as a liberal intelligentsia journal. After Franco's death, El Pais and Diario 16 became successful publishing start-ups of the liberal center, with El Pais as a function of the Spanish social democrats (politically comparable to the Frankfurter Rundschau in Germany). The big publishing hour of El Pais came during the coup by the group of the Lieutenant Colonel Antonio of the Guardia Civil Tejero in 1981, as it published a special issue defending the democratic constitution, even before King Juan Carlos addressed the coup plotters in a televised address.

El Pais represents a mythology of Spanish media in itself, especially in international views, while it is oftentimes forgotten that the majority of Spanish newspapers (in addition to a strong sports and business media) tend to lean more to the right. The (partial) privatization of Spanish broadcasting (TV / radio) and the approval of new commercial stations during the governments Felipe Gonzales (PSOE, 1982 - 1996), Jose Maria Aznar (PP, 1996 - 2004) and Jose Luis Zapatero ( PSOE, 2004 - 2011) essentially created politically friendly media groups. Gonzales supported efforts to expand Canal Plus, and the Fraga-pupil Aznar expanded Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset using the financially powerful and recently privatized Telefónica. Today (2012) Berlusconi's broadcasting group (Mediaset Espana, including Telecinco and Cuatro, minority interest from PRISA) holds a total of a 28.4% market share and the pole position in the Spanish television market, followed by the Antena 3 Group (Antena 3 and La Sexta), dominated by RTL and Bertelsmann Grupo Planeta with 28.2%, then, a distance away, the public CRTVE group (16.5%), Vocento (4.4%) and Unidad Editorial (3.8%).

Media companies and corporations

By far the leading communications group in Spain is Telefónica S.A. with total sales of 62.8 billion euros and a net profit of at least 6.2 billion (2011). This global company with subsidiaries in Germany (O2), UK, USA, South and Central America, Canada and China employs about 286,000 people. It developed as part of the state Compania Telefónica España, founded in 1924 and partly privatized in 1979. Substantial shareholders of Telefónica are Spanish banks. Venture capital and the technical infrastructure of Telefónica was used for the commercial opening of the Spanish television market; until 2007 the company kept a 75% share of the originally Dutch TV production company Endemol, until this landed in the media empire of Silvio Berlusconi. Telefónica is extensively active as a sponsor in the motor and cycling sports as well as in football (ie. Real Zaragoza, Valencia FC). Because of its monopoly position in the Spanish telecommunications market, the group has been prone to the antitrust penalties of the European Commission. Telefónica CEO Cesar Alierta proclaimed in 2010 in the name of "net neutrality" the intention to ask Google and other aggregators for the use of the Telefónica infrastructure fund and thus to develop its own new content strategies. The pay-TV company Sogecable, previously jointly controlled by Telefónica and PRISA, was taken over by PRISA in 2008 and rebranded PRISA TV.

In the narrow (journalistic) sense, PRISA dominates Spanish media groups with a turnover of 2.7 billion euros (2011), and is according to its own description "the world's leading Spanish and Portuguese language media group in the fields of education, information and news, and entertainment, thanks to its multi-channel offering of high-quality products".Prisa also owns the sports newspaper As, the economic daily Cinco Días and several radio stations (Cadena Ser, 40 Principales. Cadena Dial, Máxima FM, Radio Olé y M80). It also operates a publishing arm composed of the imprints Alfaguara, Grupo Santillana, Taurus, Aguilar y Suma.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned turbulence at El Pais, the group announced in early in 2013 the kick-off of El Pais TV, which follows the train of the corporate policy towards increased commitment in the audiovisual market and metamedium internet. Founded in 1972 as part of the Spanish Transicion by José Ortega Spotorno, one of the sons of the philosopher Ortega y Gasset, PRISA is now under the control of international investors such as Nicolas Berggruen and Carlos Slim Helú. The most lucrative markets and related target groups are in Latin America and among Hispanics in the U.S. rather than in Spain itself. As such, El Pais has for some time been subtitled "El Periódico Global En Espanol". PRISA acquired a 50% interest in the new platform "El Huffington Post" in 2012, where ex-Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was hired as a blogger. Because of its massive debt PRISA's investors have lately considered to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. Such a move is possible because the company is publicly listed on wall street. In addition underperforming assets such as the Spanish Pay-TV company Digital+ may be splitted from the company.

With 1.78 billion euros in sales (2011) the Grupo Planeta, based in Barcelona, constitutes one of the larger European media groups. Founded in 1949 as Editorial Planeta, it is under the management of José Manuel Lara Bosch (the son of the founder José Lara Hernandez) and oversees, among other things, the conservative national newspaper La Razón, and, along with RTL Bertelsmann, controls the TV broadcasting group Antena 3 and Onda Cero radio and additionally operates numerous book publishers. In the Spanish media sales rankings, after the television group Mediaset España (€ 1.01 billion) and Antena 3 (€ 805 million), the Grupo Vocento S.A. (€ 690 million turnover, 2011), based in Madrid and founded in 2001 by a merger of Grupo Correo and Prensa Espanola, follows. Here the traditional national newspaper ABC (established in 1903) is published as well as regional papers such as El Diario Vasco, Rioja or La Voz de Cádiz. In addition to television channels (Intereconomia, Paramount and Disney Channel), the two major TV production companies are Europroducciones and Boca Boca (majorities owned by Spanish families). Vocento has had significantly lower sales in recent years - 2010 produced a net loss of € 121 million.

In 2007, the resulting conglomerate Unidad Editorial emerged from the merger of Grupo Recoletos and Uniedisa (€ 512 million turnover, 2010). It now distributes, among others, the national newspaper El Mundo (connected to the sports radio station of the same name), the sports daily Marca and the business newspaper Expansión. The group is 96% (in shareholdings) controlled by the Italian RCS Group.

Other notable media companies are the Grupo Zeta S.A. (Barcelona), founded in 1976 during the transition era by Antonio Asensio Pizarro along with the weekly publication Interviú. Zeta also produces regional papers El Periódico de Catalunya and El Periódico di Aragón as well as sports leaflets and glossy magazines.

Also located in Barcelona is the Grupo Godó, founded in 1998 by the Godó family. It owns the newspapers La Vanguardia (created in 1881) and El Mundo Deportivo (first publication in 1906). This group also owns 40% of the daily Avui, seven magazines and two radio stations.

Mediaset España, founded in 1989, is focused essentially on the production and distribution of television content. It currently operates several television channels (Telecinco, Cuatro, LaSiete, Fiction Factory, Boing, Divinity, Energy and Nine). The majority shareholders of Mediaset Spain are: Mediaset Investimenti, (owned by Silvio Berlusconi) with 41.6% of the capital and PRISA Group with 17.3%.

Spanish public television (RTVE, Total budget in 2013: € 941 Mio.) is currently deep within a crisis-ridden process of restructuring, which many critics consider to be politically motivated. This was brought about by the incumbent conservative Rajoy government through legislative amendment, after which the allocation of leadership positions at RTVE no longer needed to be confirmed by a two-thirds majority but only by a simple majority. Following the appointment of Leopoldo Gonzalez-Echenique as RTVE president, some prominent journalists and presenters were forced out;  Javier Gallego, host of critical radio show "Carne cruda", spoke of a "cleansing" (now in Cadena Ser), spoke of a "cleansing" and the Counsil of Europe Parlamentary Assembly in February 2013 voiced doubts about the independence of the Spanish public policy: "The Assembly notes with concern information about political pressure on broadcasting services in Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine, and invites the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to cooperate with the European Council on this issue.“

Shortly before its planned privatization in early 2012, the public regional channel Telemadrid terminated 861 of its 1170 employees, similar to DRTV in Valencia (with 700 dismissals). The former president of the regional government of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, clarified this by stating: "I do not believe in public service media" before he was himself also forced to go in the fall of 2012 after construction and spying scandals emerged.

Public service broadcasting and television production companies as well as Spanish cinema (due to the absence of a co-agent) have been deeply affected by the financial crisis. The public spanish broadcasting sector consists of four major TV-Channels: La 1, La 2, Teledeporte y 24h and the radio station Radio Nacional de España (RNE) which consists of six channels: Radio Nacional, Radio 3, Radio 4, Radio 5 y Radio Exterior. The national news agency Agencia EFE is also part of Spains public media sector. The main Spanish public regional televisions channels are TV3 (Cataluña), EITB (Vasc Country), TVGa (Galicia), Telemadrid (Comunidad de Madrid), Canal Sur (Andalucía), and Canal 9 (Comunidad Valenciana). Regional MP Alberto Fabra has announced in the fall of 2013 that he will be shutting down Canal 9 and fire all of its roughly 1,000 employees due to financial pressures.

In Spain there is also two private news agencies, Europa Press and the smaller Servimedia (owned by Once). Europa Press is a family owned company, founded in 1957 by Antonio Herrero Losada, with around 200 journalists working and directed by Asís Martín de Cabiedes.

Grupo Mediapro is the largest audio-visual production company in Spain (for sports and football games, thematic channels, motion pictures, etc.), which was already prevalent before the bankruptcy. Mediapro boss Jaume Roures, co-producer on Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona", among others, is one of the most colorful media entrepreneurs in Spain. In September 2007, the ex-Trotskyite founded the daily Público as a left-leaning alternative to El Pais; however it has only existed as a Web offer since 2012. The gazette contributed journalistic support for the then socialist Zapatero government. Roures also struggled with Mediapro in a long-lasting war against PRISA over football rights - in Spain, the individual clubs in the professional leagues choose one of the two providers. This creates a bizarre rights struggle for each and every single game. In August 2012, this came only a day before the season started in a "Last Minute Soccer TV Deal" (Hollywood Reporter) between PRISA and Mediapro. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona lead the rest in the field, with  rankings as the world's top-selling football clubs at € 480 and  450 million respectively.

Table I: Total readership of major Spanish newspapers, 2000-2012 (in thousands)

Source: Data Asociación para la investigación de medios de comunicación,


Table II: Average TV and radio consumption, 2000-2011 (minutes/day/person)

Source: Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones


Table III: TV primetime market shares 2011 (in %)

Source: European Audiovisual Observatory


Table IV: Gross revenues of radio-television, 2007-2011

Source: European Audiovisual Observatory


Table V: Spain's most popular websites




Owned by


Google Espana

Search engine

Google Inc.



Social network

Facebook Inc.



Video site

Google Inc.


Search engine

Google Inc.



B2C commerce Inc.


Windows Live





Google Inc.



Web portal

Yahoo Inc.






Sports news

Unidad Editorial




Wikimedia Foundation


Classified ads

Milanuncios SL


Search engine



Traffic tool



Search engine







El Mundo


Unidad Editorial


El Pais





Babylon Ltd.


Sports news


Source: (as of July 2013)

Regulatory structures and authorities

In Spain, because of the impressive autonomy statutes, no central media regulatory institution exists. There are regional authorities such as the Consell de l'Audiovisual de Catalunya and the Consejo Audiovisual de Andalucia (with 40 employees in three departments). These agencies are responsible for the allocation of regional television and radio licenses. In 2008 an Iberian Conference of Regulators (CICA) formed, which also includes the appropriate authorities of Portugal (ERC) and Andorra. In a public statement made on February 2012, the conference stressed the necessity of independence of such agencies from political influence, especially during times of economic crisis.


The real estate, banking and economic crisis and allegations of corruption have resulted not only in much of the Spanish population participating in public protests against "La Moncloa" (the seat of the Spanish prime minister), in effect against the Rajoy cabinet, but also in a rapid loss of confidence in relation to the two major established parties, the royal family and the EU. Paradoxically, this has resulted to some extent in a refocusing of the Spanish press on their criticism and research functions. The PP of Mariano Rajoy currently voices reactionary complaints not only against El Pais but also against the newspaper El Mundo in regards to the publication of unverified documents. Overall, the current situation of the incumbent Spanish media is unstable due to economic shocks. Meanwhile, in the realm of film and music piracy, Spain is considered a leader in the EU. In the course of fiscal consolidation, the Rajoy cabinet has raised the value added tax on cultural events from eight to 21 percent, which has further compounded the crisis of cinema sales. In principle, the Spanish media and communications industry has a good chance to assert itself both nationally and internationally within global Spanish-speaking community because of its significant experience in audiovisual production and sufficiently diversified publishing scene; however this would require a comprehensive  media and communications policy framework plan, which is not to be expected in times of public confusion and outrage.


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