Spanish press association appeals for state aid for media sector

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Spain's main press association appealed Monday for state aid for the country's media sector, which it said had slashed over 3,000 journalism jobs, about 10 percent of the total, since the end of 2008.

Journalism is a "public good" that needs to be recognized as such and requires a "plan of conditioned media support to maintain work stations", the Federation of Press Associations of Spain said.

"Insecurity and job destruction" in the media sector is the "main enemy of press freedom in a democratic society" and was undermining the "credibility" of information, it added in a statement released to mark World Press Freedom Day.

A total of 3,350 journalists have left the industry through layoffs, negotiated departures and early retirements since November 2008, when around 30,000 were employed, according to the press association.

Unlike in neighbouring France, there has been no state support for the media sector since the economic crisis erupted at the end of 2008.

A plan of state aid was rejected by media owners in 2009 but a new draft for government aid is being prepared, the head of the Madrid Press Association, Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja, told AFP.

Most major Spanish media groups are negotiating or have already announced job reductions and in some cases also cut the salaries of those who continue on the payroll. Some newspapers, like the free daily Metro, have closed.

Several major media outlets, including national news agency EFE, public broadcaster RTVE and private media group Prisa, the publishers of top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, have been hit by strikes and demonstrations by their employees in recent weeks.

Prisa, which has a debt of nearly five billion euros (6.65 billion dollars), announced in March that it would open its capital to international investors who could eventually become majority shareholders in the firm, a move that alarmed the company's employees.

© 2010 AFP

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