The Catalan government plans to charge internet operators 25 cents a month, or three euros a year, for every connection they sell in Catalonia. The money will go towards encouraging and improving the Catalan film and television industry, culture commissioner Ferran Mascarell said Friday.
The regional authorities hope to raise around 20.5 million euros a year from this fee, which could be approved before the summer, said Mascarell. It is unclear whether companies will be passing the cost along to their customers.
The idea of creating a new tax came from an industry group, PROA (Federated Audiovisual Producers). The levy had initially been set at 0.20 euros, leading to an estimated annual intake of 16 million euros.
Mascarell said this fee was raised to 25 cents to ensure enough revenues to encourage Catalan productions but also to bring free internet access to all public cultural institutions and to pay for the maintenance of cultural assets relating to the audiovisual industry.
The main operators, including Telefónica, Ono, Vodafone and Jazztel, are analyzing the project, according to Mascarell. Several months ago the operators issued a statement expressing strong opposition to the fee. Their argument is that they are already paying out five percent of their earnings to finance the Spanish and European audiovisual sectors.
In recent months, the Catalan government - which is ruled by the nationalist coalition CiU - has met individually with Movistar, Orange, Vodafone, Yoigo, Jazztel and ONO but failed to reach any agreement so far.
Regional authorities note that this sort of tax already exists in France, Britain and Germany. Mascarell asserted that “it is necessary to strengthen and help one’s own audiovisual production, as is the case in other European countries when they invoke the cultural exception to defend, in a positive way, their cultural and linguistic legacy.”
The commissioner admitted that funding for the sector has dwindled for a variety of reasons. Between 2001 and 2012, movie theater attendance has dropped by 50 percent, and public funding has also been halved.