Head of Spanish state broadcaster quits over government funding row

RTVE chief Leopoldo González-Echenique had refused to carry out layoff plan

González-Echenique during his appearance before the RTVE Parliamentary Control Committee on Tuesday.
González-Echenique during his appearance before the RTVE Parliamentary Control Committee on Tuesday.uly martín

The head of Spanish state broadcaster Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) has resigned after failing to secure the financing from the government that he believes the organization needs to be able to continue operating.

Leopoldo González-Echenique, a state lawyer who took over the reins at RTVE two years ago, had tried to persuade Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro to grant an injection of €130 million so that he could carry out his efficiency plan. His lack of success meant he felt unable to carry on in his role as head of Spain’s state broadcaster, as the government had announced at the beginning of the week. His resignation was made official at the end of Thursday’s board meeting.

A reduction in government funding and a cut in contributions from other broadcasters – the only two means of financing open to RTVE since it stopped carrying advertising – had taken him to a dead end, González-Echenique told parliament on Tuesday. He had also refused to carry out a layoff plan that would have affected several hundred workers.

The situation had not improved since July, which was when González-Echenique told board members that there were no guarantees from the Finance Ministry that it would provide the funds that would allow him to carry out his efficiency plan, which has now been left in limbo.

The idea was to carry out a raft of cost-saving measures, which ranged from salary cuts to merging sports station Teledeporte with La 2 – a move that would have saved €16 million. In exchange, RTVE would have received €130 million from the government to help it balance its books after the disastrous results of recent years that have seen it clock up losses of €400 million.

The Finance Ministry wants RTVE to make more drastic cuts before it will release any funds, say sources

According to RTVE sources, the Finance Ministry claims that the organization needs to make much more drastic cuts for it to authorize the cash injection, which would include a layoff plan to slim down its staff of 6,400. Wages account for a hefty third of RTVE’s budget, totaling €960 million last year.

González-Echenique’s refusal to carry out the layoff plan brought him into conflict with the organization’s corporate general manager Enrique Alejos, who is close to Finance Minister Montoro and whom some view as Echenique’s possible successor.

RTVE has blamed the government’s cuts for its diminishing audience share, which is now languishing around the 10-percent mark. One of the most affected areas has been news, which has been steadily losing viewers. The state broadcaster’s coverage of the resignation of Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón on Tuesday was heavily criticized for not showing the beginning of his press conference live.

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