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Spanish 24-hour television news channel to stop broadcasting

Spain’s all news channel CNN+ will cease broadcasting at midnight on Tuesday, said a spokesman for Spanish media group Prisa, which launched the station in 1999 as a joint venture with Turner Broadcasting, a unit of Time Warner.

The closure of CNN+ is an indirect consequence of the sale by heavily endebted Prisa of its free-to-air television channel Cuatro to rival broadcaster Telecinco, owned by the Mediaset group of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Prisa, owners of leading Spanish daily El Pais, said Tuesday it had signed an agreement to sell Cuatro to Telecinco as well as an agreement to sell 44 percent of its pay-TV unit Digital+ to Telecinco and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica for 976 million euros (1.282 billion dollars).

Under the accord to sell Cuatro to Telecinco, Prisa retained the right to provide a 24-hour news service over digital terrestrial TV which meant it could have kept CNN+ on air.

But instead it opted to give the broadcast rights to Cuatro’s new owners, Telecinco, who decided not to use them.

Business daily Cinco Dias, which also belongs to Prisa, said Telecinco’s decision was based on the fact that CNN+ loses over 40 million euros annually and captures an audience market share of only 0.6 percent.

Turner Broadcasting, which operates global news provider CNN, has said it “regrets” Prisa’s decision and would continue to search for ways to serve news to the Spanish public, both in television and digital media.

CNN+ has around 190 employees and Cuatro another 180 who will now join the staff of Telecinco, Spain’s largest private TV channel.

Telecinco currently has 14.7 percent of Spain’s TV audience while Cuatro has 7.2 percent.

Last month Spain’s competition authority approved Prisa’s sale of Cuatro to Telefonica as well its sale of a 44 percent stake in Digital+.

Telecinco and Telefonica will each take a 22 percent stake in the pay-TV unit. Both Telecinco deals were first announced in December 2009.