Spanish Supreme Court Rules on TV Stations’ Right to Access Professional Football Games

31 May 2022 - Sven Wassmer

In a judgment of 28 April 2022, the Third Administrative Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court (judgment 504/2022, appeal proceedings 1861/2021) upheld the right of television broadcasters to access football matches and other sporting events of public interest free of charge, in order to record and broadcast short news reports.

Sven Wassmer, PhD Abogado & Rechtsanwalt +34 91 319 96 86

This ruling is the conclusion to a legal dispute between the Spanish Football League (LaLiga) on the one hand and the broadcasters Atresmedia S.A. and Mediaset S.A. on the other, which originated several years ago at the Spanish National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) and took the parties all the way to the Supreme Court.

The right to access sports venues to record video and broadcast short extracts without being obliged to acquire the corresponding broadcasting rights is guaranteed by Article 19.3 of the Law on Audiovisual Communication, which in turn is based on EU legislation, specifically Directive 2010/13/EU. What the regulations seek to safeguard is the public’s right to information on events and incidents of major public interest. This right would not be guaranteed if only broadcasters that have acquired the exclusive audiovisual rights to an event could report on it, especially if they are pay-TV broadcasters. However, the same regulations also protect the interests of those broadcasters that do hold exclusive rights and the interests of the organisers of competitions (such as LaLiga) by stipulating, among other things, that short reports may not exceed 90 seconds in length and may only be broadcast in general news programmes.

Although the general legal principle was not in dispute between the parties, the ruling clarified some issues, in particular whether the right of access and recording of images is limited to events taking place on the field of play or whether events taking place in other areas of the ground, for example in the audience, are also included. In this respect, the Supreme Court has ruled that off-the-field events, for example occurrences in the stands or on the substitutes’ benches, can also be in the public interest. The right to information therefore also applies to these events, which is why they may be covered in the short news reports as well.