Read in Catalan

The Spanish Socialists (PSOE), dominant group in Spain's coalition government, argue that their proposed audiovisual law cannot establish quotas for Catalan on streaming platforms based outside Spain because it would violate EU regulations. In this context, however, Brussels sees it as "legitimate" to protect linguistic diversity using "proportionate and non-discriminatory" measures. EU sources told the ACN agency that the member states of the European Union "are able to take measures in the legitimate public interest for linguistic and cultural diversity" as long as they respect the European treaties and the principles of "non-discrimination and proportionality".

However, given that it is a domestic issue, the same EU sources held fast to their usual refusal to take a specific position on the Spanish government's audiovisual bill and the debate over quotas for the state's minoritized languages, such as Catalan, Basque and Galician. However, they point out that Europe's Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) does not say anything about content quotas in the official languages ​​of the member states.

The European directive

The AVMSD states that member states must ensure that providers "under their jurisdiction" have "at least 30% European content" in their catalogue. In addition, the directive allows states to force them to invest in European production or buy broadcast rights for European works on platforms "established in another EU member state which target their territory". For example, Netflix is ​​based in the Netherlands and HBO in Sweden. The European directive does not mention subtitling or dubbing of audiovisual content. It should be remembered that European directives are EU legal provisions which bind states to take certain measures or achieve certain objectives, but leave room for manoeuvre so they can adapt to their own national laws.

Relevant jurisprudence

In 2009, the European Court of Justice upheld the obligation to require television operators to allocate 5% of their income to the pre-financing of European content and, more specifically, for 60% of this 5% to be dedicated in Spain to the co-official languages. Spanish commercial TV broadcasters association UTECA went to court over the decree law that imposed this obligation. But they lost. European justice considered that the protection of linguistic diversity was a justifiable reason for having such a measure and that it did not clash with the existing directive on television broadcasting activities.

ERC, still talking to the PSOE

Following the approval given by Pedro Sánchez's cabinet for the audiovisual bill on Tuesday, Catalan pro-independence party ERC put its support for the Spanish budget into question, as, contrary to what the Catalan party believed it had negotiated, the text excluded overseas-based platforms such as Netlflix or HBO from having to enforce any quotas.

On Thursday evening, ERC announced that it would not attempt to reject the budget in its entirety in the Senate, where the majorities are such that it is unable to guarantee a budget blockade through such action. The party said that it would prioritize its continuing attempts to negotiate with the PSOE to re-write the agreement on minority language quotas. However, if agreement with the PSOE fails, ERC will consider partial amendments in the Senate, which could result in the bill being returned to Congress, where ERC does have veto capacity.


Main image, draft of Spanish audiovisual law excludes overseas-based platforms such as Netflix / Europa Press