MEDIA

Formula 1 fiasco means Valencia’s public TV still leaking money after closure

Rescinding contract with sport’s broadcasting partner costs defunct channel 16 million euros

A moment from the Grand Prix held in Valencia in 2012.
A moment from the Grand Prix held in Valencia in 2012.tania castro

Although Valencia's public television and radio stations (RTVV) went off the air over two months ago, their associated costs keep rising, as the regional government is finding out. First there is the fact that the staff of 1,660 keep getting their paychecks and will continue to do so until the RTVV liquidation procedure is completed, representing a monthly cost of around 4.5 million euros.

Then last week, worker representatives disclosed that RTVV has just paid 16 million euros for failing to honor its four-year contract with the broadcast company Mediapro, owner of the Formula 1 rights in Spain. The contract stipulated that RTVV would air the championship in 2012 and 2013. The workers' committee notes that Valencian deputy premier José Ciscar had described the liquidation of Canal 9, RTVV's television station, as "a measure that will bring savings to the public coffers."

A court in Paterna, Valencia province, ruled that RTVV owed this amount to the Catalan broadcaster after rescinding their contract. According to a press release issued on Wednesday by Mediapro, the broadcaster "had reached a preliminary agreement with the last management team at RTVV to compensate outstanding debt and withdraw the legal complaints. Following the dissolution of the corporation, Mediapro asked the three liquidators for meetings to ratify this preliminary agreement. But they turned down our requests to meet."

These company liquidators were appointed by the government of Valencia and tasked with extinguishing RTVV and definitively firing its 1,660 workers, something that is expected to happen next month.

On Wednesday, these company representatives told EL PAÍS that they had no comments to make regarding the 16-million-euro payout (13.5 million for the contract rights, plus VAT and legal fees). Sources at RTVV said the court ruling has been appealed, but the compensation was paid in advance because Mediapro requested it from the judge.

The Valencian government also canceled two races that were scheduled to be run in Valencia, according to a deal between F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and former Valencian premier Francisco Camps. The Popular Party (PP) regional government has already paid out over 275 million euros for the annual fee and the costs of maintaining the necessary infrastructure in good shape.

"It is a scandal that the [government] has decided to shut down Canal 9 and Ràdio 9 because of an adverse court ruling triggered by its own violation of workers' rights, yet has taken no measures against the executives who ran the corporation in a corrupt manner, wasting the money of all Valencians," said a representative of the workers' committee.

In July 2012, the regional government announced a labor adjustment plan at RTVV as part of its cost-cutting measures. The plan effectively laid off a majority of workers, but labor unions took the case to court and obtained a favorable ruling in November 2013. Faced with the prospect of readmitting 1,000 employees, regional premier Alberto Fabra announced that RTVV would be shutting down entirely. For several days in November workers effectively took over the television station, airing their own programs and revealing the extent of the political manipulation they had been subjected to for years by the PP. On November 29, the electricity supply was cut off and the premises forcibly vacated, marking the end of the station's 24 years on the air.

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