The Government will allocate 15 million euros to private television, as part of urgent aid to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy that the Minister’s Council approved this Tuesday. In the text, the item is described as a temporary compensation of certain expenses of compulsory population coverage of the state digital terrestrial television (DTT) service.

“Exceptionally, aid amounting to 15 million euros is approved to offset part of the costs of providers of state-owned digital terrestrial television audiovisual communication service, derived from maintaining for a period of six months certain percentages of compulsory population coverage ”, indicates the Government in the text, according to the Europa Press agency.

The text does not define the conditions or the beneficiaries, but it is expected to include Mediaset and Atresmedia, the most profitable media in Spain. According to the results presented before the National Securities Market Commission in February, in 2019 they received profits of 118 and 211 million euros respectively. According to the text, audiovisual services “play a transcendent double function as essential services, which has been reinforced in the context of the health crisis caused by Covid-19”.

Televisions constitute, continues the text, “a fundamental way for citizens to be informed and to express the different currents of expression in Spanish society”, and provide “leisure and entertainment services, which are particularly relevant in these moments of confinement domiciliary”.

The coronavirus crisis has embedded Spanish television in that Dickens phrase in which the best of times was also the worst of times. Never, since the audiences began to be measured in the current way, have they seen the numbers that the alarm state is leaving. With the Spanish population confined to their homes, television consumption throughout March has skyrocketed to 282 minutes a day per inhabitant on average, 89 minutes (hour and a half) more than in normal times; and with a record that, like the month itself, remains for historical memory: 344 minutes per inhabitant on March 15, the day after the announcement that the Government would decree a state of alarm. Five hours and 44 minutes. But, at the same time, advertising, the true livelihood of the medium, is scarce as it has not been in years.

The traditional report with the audiences of each month of the consulting firm Barlovento reads this month as a carousel of records: consumption has shot up 40% throughout Spain, more than 30% without exception in all communities. It has done so in ages: children (4 to 12 years old) saw it 50% more, young people (13 to 24 years old), 60%. The weakest time slots have been strengthened like never before: 65% in the morning, 42% in the afternoon and 50% in the afternoon. They are gaps focused on information, something that is consumed voraciously: TVE’s 24 Hours channel has a 1.8% share of the screen, something that had not happened since October 2017, in the midst of the Catalan crisis. The most watched news programs, however, are those of Antena 3. Television is also spoken of more than ever. In March there were 9,800,000 tweets about content, a million and a half more than the same month of 2019. The cathodic colossus has taken on massive dimensions never seen before.

Income drop

At the same time, the television industry is in the same jam as the rest of the media. In this era of mass consumption, the greater the social service they provide, the less publicity they enter. In the text, the Executive recognizes it: these televisions are in “the paradoxical situation that they have seen their audience increase due to the measures of confinement, but at the same time they are suffering a sharp fall in their income since the beginning of the crisis, mainly due to the cancellation of advertising campaigns of companies that have seen their activity suspended or slowed down ”.

It is the same problem that concerns the press, which has seen 75% or 80% of its advertising revenue fall, according to the Information Media Association. The forecast for April was, last week, 50% lower than at the beginning of the month. The Spanish Association of Commercial Broadcasting calculates between 70% and 80% advertising investment.

On television the figures are more relative, but also bad. In the two weeks since the state of alarm was decreed, advertising occupancy has fallen by 14.6%. Before there were 1,709 hours and later, 1,460: 249 less. And there is a gradual progression, as reflected in a report published Monday by the Dos30 agency. ’ The first week the ads fell 12.6%; the second, 29%. From 886 hours of advertising in the week from March 9 to 15, it went to 555 last week. Advertising for personal belongings has practically disappeared: 91.4% is gone. Advertisers have dropped from 973 in the first 15 days to 800 in the following.