Three years after Congress approved a reform to allow the election of the president and board members of Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española (RTVE), the public broadcaster is yet to have its management troubles resolved.

After numerous obstructions, the process to elect new management at RTVE recently restarted in a bid to better ensure its independence. But the process comes at a time of significant pressures for the broadcaster as it negotiates a growing funding crisis and political disagreements.

‘Institutional paralysis’

The 2017 reform had been seen as a way to improve RTVE’s management structure and image by insulating the broadcaster against government influence. For RTVE, this reform ultimately meant it was on the path towards values that better aligned with those of a public broadcaster, such as transparency, plurality, and independence.

Read more: Changes afoot for RTVE

However, the reform process stalled due to political disagreements. While parties were initially given three months to submit their proposals for a final structure of the public tender of RTVE’s board, this deadline passed.

While progress was made with the shortlisting of 19 candidates in 2018, endorsed by a committee of experts, the process was subsequently blocked. These candidates have since jointly called for the reinstating of RTVE’s independence, with a public contest being seen as the only democratic solution. The process was unblocked in November 2020 but an apparent step back has been taken: in December, it was announced that the nearly 100 candidates who had applied to be members of the RTVE board would be interviewed again in January 2021.

Read more: Clamor against Parliament for the “shameful stagnation” of the public tender of RTVE

More than half of the candidates have already been interviewed, with some maintaining that issues such as transparency, independence, and the fulfilment of public service missions must be defended. The stalled process has drawn much concern, with the Council of Europe noting the years-long absence of RTVE’s board via an alert issued in September. Meanwhile, the progress in electing a new board has brought it with the selection of a new president. Since July 2018, Rosa María Mateo has been the broadcaster’s sole provisional administrator, until the election of a new board.


Once RTVE has resolved its management issues, it can better focus on its other challenges, such as declining funding which is threatening its future. In recent months, Mateo has called for more stable funding and has emphasised the importance of this for RTVE’s independence. She has also noted RTVE’s inability to respond to today’s society “with a budget that shrinks year after year”.

RTVE was expected to close its 2020 financial year with a deficit of approximately €50 million. Her calls for stable funding have been echoed by some of the candidates being interviewed for RTVE’s board. Mateo believes this deficit is due to a lack of financing rather than poor management. But potential board candidates have presented their own proposals for financing the corporation, in response to questions raised on the sustainability of RTVE. Proposals include a mixed financing model as well as a multi-year model. Furthermore, in 2010, TVE stopped airing advertisements and candidates have disagreed on the return of advertising to the corporation as a means of finance. Some candidates have also proposed only outsourcing productions when essential or necessary.

Read more: Spain’s public broadcaster looks for a future-proof model

The broadcaster’s staff have recognised the link between RTVE’s funding challenges and its management model. As a result, with the resumption of the process to elect RTVE’s board, the broadcaster’s workers have made various proposals and have called for an efficient management model. The workers have also indicated their priority is “the enhancement of public service over private and commercial interests”.

The Public Media Alliance (PMA) will continue to follow and update on developments at RTVE.

Header Image: RTVE building in Madrid. Credit: Pedro Cambra/Creative Commons