The LaLiga soccer ball started rolling a few weeks ago with news for those who follow it on television. The season began after months of rumors of signings, hiring, sales, the usual in a summer campaign. But it also brings changes for fans who pay high bills to their telephone operators to be able to follow their team from the improvised stands that are the sofa at home. This season —2022/2023— is the first of the new television model marked with the latest award and which means culminating in the almost total takeover by the football employers of everything that is seen and heard during the broadcast of the main national competition.
LaLiga, the employers' association that encompasses the first and second division teams, last year awarded a new five-year contract for the broadcasting of football in Spain. Telefónica and Dazn will disburse in this five years 4,900 million euros to have these rights. The Spanish teleco thus ceases to have the exclusive in exchange for lowering the bill after three years in which it has monopolized the broadcast of football. These companies have resold these rights to other operators, such as Orange, to obtain income from this investment, in addition to the subscribers.
The specifications of this award It is practically the last of the steps for LaLiga to control the entire process, from the organization of the championship to the broadcast that reaches the fan. The time when audiovisual rights were decentralized and it was the different television networks that were in charge of production is already behind in time.
Now, the employer is in charge of the production of all the matches that are broadcast on television, which is subcontracted with Mediapro, Jaume Roures's company. This includes images viewed during the match, replays, or recaps that are distributed. All managed by LaLiga, something that was already happening to a large extent, but whose cost is now fully assumed by the employers. Added to this is the main novelty of the new contract. The commentators and narrators will also report to LaLiga, either directly or with indirect control that is guaranteed in the specifications.
Thus, everything remains, 100%, under the brand of LaLiga, and not of the television that broadcasts it. This has already been verified in these first two days of the league competition, especially in Movistar. Telefónica's television has assumed the entire LaLiga "package" and practically limits itself to broadcasting the product sent by the organization chaired by Javier Tebas. In fact, it was the bosses and not television that announced the team of commentators and narrators for this season. Although some of those who were already in Movistar last season are repeated, there are new faces chosen by LaLiga.
On the other hand there is Dazn. The British sports streaming platform debuts this year in the broadcast of the Spanish competition and has chosen to distance itself from LaLiga and Movistar and have its own brand on the broadcast, as well as its team of commentators and announcers. The image of the matches, yes, still depends entirely on the football bosses.
The employer's specifications on the conditions of these awards contemplate the control of what is said in the retransmissions. Even when the journalists behind the microphones do not belong to LaLiga, but to Dazn. "The successful bidder will undertake that the personalization of the production is carried out in a positive way, avoiding damaging the image of the competitions, clubs, players and the public", reads the specifications. In other words, LaLiga is guaranteed to be able to supervise what is said during the broadcasts. In case of "violation", the employer will ask the platform not to "reoffend". It even reserves the ability to "request the relief of those speakers, narrators, commentators and editors who have failed to comply with the aforementioned principles."
Although it is known that football is never broadcast to the liking of all fans, the previous paragraph enters a tricky area with regard to the information and opinion of those who participate in these broadcasts. On the one hand, the announcers in the Movistar + matches belong to LaLiga, their employer. On the other hand, those who participate in the conferences broadcast by Dazn may be questioned by LaLiga if it is considered that the commitment to report "positively" is not being fulfilled.
In practice, the award implies that the football employers are guaranteed friendly broadcasts and according to their interests without images or opinions that could call La Liga into question. There is no precedent for contractual information control over other business organizations.
The seizure of control over the information in the broadcasts has already raised the concern of the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC). After opening the process in the autumn of last year, the body had to issue a report on the specifications of the award, as required by law. Among other criticisms, the CNMC warned about the section that grants the provision of control over what is said, something "not existing in previous offers." This hypothesis, pointed out Competence, “must be reconsidered in the light of the article 20 of the Constitution and the freedoms of expression and information”.
The CNMC also criticized that this "personalization" that can be carried out by the company that was awarded the rights has to be produced by LaLiga —in this case, Mediapro—. "It is again a precision not in accordance with the law," assured the CNMC. They can only add their own images during the match preview, at half-time or after the match is over. never during.
Asked about this fact, LaLiga sources point out that it is a remote hypothesis and that it does not match the operation of the retransmissions. They play down the seriousness of that paragraph of the specifications and deny that the opinions or information that are made will be limited. In fact, they point out that in the first days there have already been criticisms of LaLiga among the commentators.
They remember from LaLiga that in previous seasons, the employers were already in charge of the teams and commentators for a good part of the matches, since Movistar focused its efforts and capabilities on the most outstanding matches, fundamentally those of the best positioned teams in the league. competition. They point out that the change is, only, to also assume these parties.
The football association marks not only the limits of what is said in the broadcasts, but also how it is presented. An annex to the statement points out how the interviews with protagonists should be done, the distance of the journalist, the camera, the lighting or even the clothing of the editor. It also imposes limits on the content of these interviews. "To avoid bothering the interviewees before the interview, the interviewee will be openly asked whether or not he wants to pronounce on any topic on which there is any doubt as to whether he will want to pronounce himself," the statement states. "As long as it is not necessary, referee decisions will not be asked," he adds about the questions to coaches.
The doubts of the CNMC with the LaLiga statement go beyond the supervision of what is said and how it is exposed. Competition charged against the fact that a tender was launched for five years and not for three, as it was to date. LaLiga continued with the established plan and maintained five years as the duration of the contract. The opinion of the CNMC also charged with the lack of specification of some technical aspects in the offers, the way to value them or the transparency of the process. None of the Competition requirements resulted in a change in the specifications.
The president of the supervisory body herself charged harshly against the lack of compliance with the Competition reports and recommendations. "With the means I have, to make reports so that they are not followed up later, it is almost better that they remove that competence from me," said Cani Fernández during a meeting with the press in the spring. "I am going to try to make a request that they please free the CNMC from having to report every time there is a competition for football rights, because in the report in which we say that the rights are not granted for more than 3 years, they never pay attention", he added, also referring to the Royal Spanish Football Federation, who have also criticized the awarding of the rights to the Cup and the Super Cup.
The first three days of LaLiga have left a trail of complaints among fans on social networks about the new broadcast models, which include novelties such as the repetition of goals focusing on radio booths. "Is there anyone around here who thinks it's interesting to see the radio commentators singing the goal 10 minutes ago?" ironically a Twitter profile in a frequently repeated message during these first weeks of competition. Messages have also been reproduced against the choice of certain profiles of commentators or professionals whose taking sides for certain clubs has been a constant in the past. "Having decided to cede production to LaLiga, as well as the choice of commentators to have to put up with barbarities on the field of not knowing the regulations and other impertinences show LaLiga that some want," said a tweeter. "There is nothing better than seeing how expectations are fully met in a debut", pointed out the journalist Antoni Daimiel about the start of narrators whose election had already raised controversy since before the start of the championship.