It was today, when Spain's new audiovisual bill was approved by the Pedro Sánchez cabinet, that all the alarms sounded. The much-vaunted protection given to the Catalan language in the planned new law was simply not as it had been sold. At a press conference in Congress just a week ago, ERC spokesperson Gabriel Rufián said that "an obligation had been established to include a 6% quota for Spain's co-official languages in the total content offered on each and every audiovisual platform". The note circulated by the Catalan pro-independence party to the media explaining the deal even gave an example: "Of 100 Netflix movies, 30 must be European productions, and of these, half in the languages of the state, and of these , two-fifths [or 6] must be in Catalan, Basque or Galician. In other words, 20% of all European films must be in Catalan, Galician or Basque. 20% of the European catalogue." It was taken for granted that it would end up like this. The reality, however, has ended up being something else, quite different, after passing through the central executive. And this, despite the Sánchez government considering ERC to be a "priority partner".
In the first place, what was supposed to be "each and every one of the audiovisual platforms" has become, simply, the platforms "based in Spain", that is, which have their main headquarters in Spain. Sources in Nadia Calviño's department justify that the "country of origin" principle applies, and that therefore the same impositions cannot be applied to these companies. Thus, only platforms such as Movistar+, Filmin and Atresmedia would be affected by the language quotas set for audiovisual content in the law, while on the other hand, the giant international platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime are simply not included. RTVE - being the Spanish public broadcaster - has a special category, and has a reinforced quota at 15%. In any case, for the platforms afected by the general provisions, the much-quoted percentage of 6% refers to the whole group of Spain's co-official languages. There are no pre-established subquotas, and thus once Basque and Galician segments are included, the offer for Catalan viewers even on a "Spanish-based platform" could feature as little as 2% of its content able to be watched in Catalan through dubbing, subtitles or original language.
Some of these Spanish platforms already comply with significant Catalan quotas without the need for them to be imposed by the future audiovisual law. Such is the case of Filmin, which has 23% of its catalogue in Catalan and in 2017 created Filmin.cat, which, with the support of the Catalan government offers about 2,500 films and series of all genres in original versions, subtitled and dubbed in Catalan. For its part, Movistar+ offers more than 300 films and 40 seasons of series subtitled in Catalan, and 55 films and one series with audio in Catalan. On the other hand, in the other international platforms analyzed, the existing proportion of content in the Catalan language is less than 1%.
ERC remarked today that last week's agreement was a "minimum" pact, as spokesperson Gabriel Rufián insisted, but that it did contemplate quotas on platforms such as Netflix. In this regard, ERC sources reiterate that they agreed with the Spanish government that the quotas would affect "each and every one of the audiovisual platforms", and this had always been the agreement, with no distinction based on where they had their headquarters.
By contrast, from the Spanish government they assert that the content of the bill passed today by cabinet is the same as was agreed last week with ERC, and that they have been completely respectful of the agreement. The same sources state that European directive that must be transposed into this law is very complex from a technical point of view, limiting the ability to impose measures on platforms based in third countries. At a press conference, first deputy PM Nadia Calviño was self-congratulatory, asserting that a "good balance" had been achieved between boosting the industry, attracting investment from international platforms and protecting the culture and languages of the Spanish state.
And now what?
The Spanish audiovisual bill has ended its procedural path within the Spanish government today, having been approved by the cabinet. Now, in the coming weeks, it will make the leap to the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, for parliamentary processing, where it can be amended by the different groups. But the news has landed like a bucket of cold water on the Catalans of ERC who throught they had negotiated it. They have decided to put their foot down. In a press conference from Congress this evening, Gabriel Rufián warned that, if this is not rectified, they will not support it and it will not move forward. But he did not stop there: he also threatened to overthrow the Spanish budget which has today begun its hearing in the Senate.