ERC presents amendments to the Budgets due to their discrepancies with the audiovisual law | Spain

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The Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, in this Thursday's session in the Senate.
The Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, in this Thursday’s session in the Senate.ISABEL INFANTES (Europa Press)

The Government was until the last minute negotiating with Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) the audiovisual law to prevent it from presenting amendments in the Senate against the Budgets, but the last offer of the Executive has not been enough for the Republicans. ERC decided to present amendments this Thursday, which threaten to force the Accounts to return to Congress if any of them are approved, and continue negotiating with the Executive until the vote on these texts arrives, which could be withdrawn at the last minute until the vote definitive, on December 21. In any case, the Budgets will continue, because this Thursday the veto was rejected in the Senate, and neither ERC nor anyone else has the possibility of overthrowing them.

What does remain is the possibility of carrying out some kind of modification through amendments —if it achieves the support of other groups—, and also forcing the bills to be approved by both the Senate and Congress with those changes. Whatever happens, with or without modifications, the second Coalition Government Budgets will be definitively approved at the end of the year in Congress. ERC lost that possibility by deciding last week not to present the veto. And the Accounts have thus passed the total amendments in Congress and the vetoes in the Senate and are moving forward with no possible reversal.

ERC’s strategy is now focused on putting more pressure on the Government with the central issue of political negotiation at this time between the two groups: that is, the protection of Catalan within the audiovisual law. Republicans consider that the bill approved last week in the Council of Ministers is “insufficient to protect Catalan,” according to a note made public yesterday afternoon.

The amendments serve to make clear, according to the text released by the Republicans, that their support for the Accounts “is not guaranteed.” However, the Executive is convinced that finally there will be an agreement and it will be possible to redirect the situation and even ensure that the Budgets do not return to Congress, which is the priority objective of the Government.

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But, to achieve this end, first it is necessary to close the modifications to the audiovisual law that the technicians of the Ministry of Economy and those of the Generalitat have been negotiating for a week. Contacts were held throughout the day between the two parties, and the Executive was confident that the amendments would not finally be presented, but the agreement was not closed on time and ERC maintains its threat of complicating the Budgets, something that in La Moncloa they continue to view as highly unlikely.

The Government has offered Esquerra solutions such as public financing by the State of part of the cost of dubbing the content of the large platforms in Catalan, to encourage them to have a much more catalog in this language, but for Republicans the last formula offered is not sufficient. The Ministry of Economy insists that only platforms based in Spain can be forced to have 6% of their production in co-official languages, while large multinationals such as Netflix, HBO or Amazon would be left out of that obligation. The negotiation will foreseeably continue until the vote on the amendments.

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The reason offered by the Executive to give a different treatment to those platforms whose headquarters are located outside of Spain is that the community directive imposes the principle of country of origin, by virtue of which audiovisual communication service providers are only subject to regulation legal and the jurisdiction of the Member State in which they are established. And that would not be the case for Netflix, HBO, Max, Disney + or Amazon Prime Video, based outside the European Union. ERC is opposed to making this distinction.

“Our intention is for the Government to respond to the demands of Esquerra Republicana to guarantee the rights of Catalans and Catalan women, as well as to protect minority languages; and so far it has not been like that ”, lamented the spokesperson for Esquerra Republicana in the Senate, Mirella Cortès. ERC has announced amendments to investment chapters in the Catalan regions of Bages, Delta del Ebro, Maresme, Tarragonès or Lleida, among others, as well as a clause for compliance with planned investments and the incorporation of a covid fund of 13,000 millions of euros.

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Republicans already left their support for the Accounts on the air on November 30, understanding that the bill excluded the obligation to comply with a quota for co-official languages ​​for platforms based outside of Spain. In ERC they point out that they will not approve a law that “does not give a good response to the current situation of marginalization of Catalan in audiovisual platforms”. Despite which, they are open to negotiation because they understand that there is room for it “both in the processing of this law and in the framework of the general budgets of the State in the Senate.”

Cortès concluded: “In Esquerra Republicana we will continue to use our negotiating force to achieve concrete advances in the present. We want to put our votes at the service of the citizens of Catalonia and their demands, because Catalonia needs investments in infrastructures, investments carried out and not just budgeted, and Catalonia needs the audiovisual law to shield the Catalan language on all digital platforms ”.

Platforms not established in Spain, excluded from the law

Area of ​​application. The key to the draft audiovisual law that has unleashed the ERC threat against the stability of the Government is in the article that regulates where the conditions established in the new standard on audiovisual production will be applied in any of the three co-official languages. Article 3.3 of the bill establishes that “the provider of the video exchange service through the platform” —category in which Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime Video are found— is subject to the provisions of this law “whenever it is established in Spain”.

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Exceptions Article 3.4 regulates the exceptions on compliance with the Law depending on the place where the affected company is located. This article states that video exchange platforms that are not established in any EU Member State will be considered to be in Spain, and therefore the audiovisual communication law will be applied to them “when said provider has a parent company or a company subsidiary established in Spain “or” is part of a group and another company of that group is established in Spain “.

Quotas to reserve in the catalog depending on the language. Article 114 of the bill establishes that “television audiovisual communication service providers will reserve at least 30% of the catalog for European works.” Of this 30% of its catalog, at least half “will be reserved for works in the official language of the State or in one of the official languages ​​of the Autonomous Communities”. In any case, the text specifies, of the sub-quota reserved for works in the official language of the State, “a minimum of 40% will be reserved for audiovisual works in any of the official languages ​​of the Autonomous Communities.”

The negotiation. This wording is the one that ERC agreed with the Government in exchange for its support to the General State Budgets. Although nowhere was it established that Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime Video would have the obligation to reserve 6% of their catalog for works in Basque, Galician or Catalan, all the political protagonists of that agreement took it for granted that this was the case. In no case did the coalition government or the ERC itself publicly explain that the agreement did not affect the three major platforms because they were not established in Spain, although the bill establishes that condition.

Relevance of European works. Point 4 of article 114 of the Audiovisual Law project insists that “television audiovisual communication service providers on request shall guarantee the prominence of said European works in their catalogs”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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