The government will not, however, be required to recover any money from those broadcasters, as Spain has now completed digital switchover without the require to pay out any compensation beneath the scheme, according to the Commission’s announcement.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said that the scheme “provided a selective advantage to terrestrial broadcasters and platform operators over other available technologies”.

“This goes against the principle of technological neutrality and does not appear necessary or proportionate,” she said.

The scheme was intended to compensate private terrestrial broadcasters for their additional costs atthesametime the digital switchover period, when they were required to ‘simulcast’ both analogue and digital signals in order to avoid service disruptions for viewers.

The Commission opened an in-depth state aid investigation into the proposed scheme in April 2012, in response to notification of the plans by the Spanish authorities in 2011. atthesametime the course of its investigation, Spain narrowed the focus of the scheme to only private terrestrial broadcasters, on the grounds that public broadcasters were already being granted compensation as portion of their public service mission.

Although the Commission has not yet published its full decision, it found that Spain “did not substantiate” its reasons for not extending the scheme to satellite, cable, TV over internet protocol (IPTV) and other non-terrestrial providers, according to its announcement. It also failed to demonstrate the require for publicly-funded compensation for those providers, who were likely to own ensured simulcast in any event so as not to lose viewers atthesametime digital switchover; and failed to provide an independent cost study or any other evidence that the proposed measure was proportionate, the Commission said.

State aid is an advantage or incentive granted by a national or local government to a commercial company, and is generally prohibited beneath EU competition rules unless it can be justified for general economic development reasons. State aid measures granted by several member states in the context of digital switchover own met these conditions, including an additional Spanish scheme for residents of collective buildings who needed to upgrade their existing digital terrestrial television infrastructure or switch to another platform.

In February this year, the Commission proposed legislation aimed at boosting wireless broadband services with high-quality radio frequencies, which would require member states to reallocate the 700MHz TV broadcasting spectrum band to wireless broadband by June 2020. The thought is that this would better coordinate spectrum management at EU level; and so improve wireless internet access both within member states and cross-edge and ease the deployment of ‘5G’ mobile data transmission technology, according to the Commission.