Saturday, February 08, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 8.2.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain  
 The Spanish Economy
  • Reports a UN bigwig:- In the economic area, Spain has done very well. High GDP growth, high per-capita income, enormous overall wealth. But in the social area, it's a different story: Spain is either at the bottom or close to the bottom on so many of the key indicators. This, of course, is the '2 Spains' I bang on about. Not unique to this country but apparently worse than in most.
Spanish/Galician Life 
  • Spain advances:-
  1. Democracy. 2019 was little bit more democratic than in 2018, it's reported.
  2. Health. Number 1.
  3. Politics: Cataluña: The relevant presidents have met and started talking.
  • As for mortality here, it differs a lot from region to region. Nice atlas here.
  • And here's how Spain ranks as regards social mobility. Not too highly in fact, at 28th.
  • There's a fraud case going through the Spanish judicial system (La Rueda - see the article below) which seems to be a paradigm of such things:-
- Massive amounts of money are involved, more than €100m.
- It involved many people and took place over several years, meaning it must have been an open secret.
- The investigation was late starting, in this case several years after suspicions were first aroused
- The first step in the process was a lengthy investigation by an ('instructing'?) judge, not the police.
- Now there will be a very lengthy trial.
- Some folk will be let off because of the statute of limitations
- Others will receive sentences that look severe but which effectively mean very little
- And none of the money will ever be returned.

Now, I'm willing to be told I've got this totally wrong, both as regards this (hard to understand) case and on my general point about it being a good example of what frequently happens here. Comments invited.

My final point on this is that I've long been impressed by 2 things in this area in Spain: 1. The huge number of multi-person fraud cases involving vast sums of (often EU) money, and 2. The fact that the police do investigate them, however ineffectually.
  • I wonder how many Brits know this and actually do what's required. I didn't/don't, relying on my driving licence. My daughter likewise. But she points out that she's blonde and attractive. And white. So the police always accept her driving licence as ID.
  • Here's info on where in Spain you're most likely to be done for speeding. I'm less than surprised to find a spot on the N 550 in the list. More surprised there's only one.
The UK
  • A woman handed over £16,000 to a courier allegedly sent by the police who needed her help to catch a criminal working in her bank. In one week, she went to her bank 3 times to take out cash, each time obeying the phoned instruction to lie about what it was for. Her bank - the NatWest - has understandably claimed she'd been 'grossly negligent' and declined to reimburse her for the money she'd withdrawn and handed over. A sad tale, but one is is forced to ask whether anyone can be this gullible. To which the answer is obviously Yes. 
The EU
  1. Spain is reported to be distancing itself from the Franco-German axis and setting herself up as - post Brexit - the champion of 'The Rest'. Good luck with that.
  2. As for the Brexit trade negotiations, the view of one ardent Brexiteer is that: It is becoming embarrassingly clear that the EU has no actual strategy. Only the clapped out choreography of a collapsing robo-bureaucracy. Who knows, she might be right.
  • Yes, I know what I said but this and this are too good to pass up-
  • Words of the Day:- 
  1. Dados: Dice
  2. Dardos: Darts 
 Finally . . .
  • I've travelled on the Pontevedra-Madrid night train at least 30 times in 15 years. But never before have I found myself in a women's compartment. So . . . accompanied by a rather worried-looking young lady, I spoke to 5 Renfe employees before I could find one who felt this was something they should try to sort out. Sad to say, despite my assurance that the mistake didn't bother me, the 5th found me a bed in a men's compartment. As it happens, I recall ticking the Señor box during my internet booking process last Tuesday morning, so I have no idea how this happened. Clearly, the fact that I made the booking using my profile stored with Renfe didn't prevent it happening. But at least I didn't have to enter my name, address, phone number and credit card details . . . I'm left wondering what would have happened in the UK, if I'd claimed I'd undergone a gender transition and now regarded myself as a woman. Beard notwithstanding.
  • I'm usually lucky with fellow sleepers in the compartments for 4. But not last night. A large chap with a huge head spent most of the night with his light on and making a variety of noises. As my brother used to say: It's amazing what you see when you don't have your rifle with you.

The National Court imputes 14 television networks for corruption in business in ‘The Wheel’ fraud: The judge investigates a system via which millionaire income was obtained for the copyright of musical contents broadcast nocturnally.

The SGAE Wheel

The judge of the National Court, Ismael Moreno, has opened an investigation against 14 of the main television networks in Spain for the plot known as 'The Wheel'. The case investigates the alleged fraud by which SGAE members and employees of these stations obtained millionaire income for the copyright of music broadcast on night programs, with hardly any audience. The magistrate attributes to the television channels a crime of corruption in the businesses committed by means of organization and/or criminal conspiracy.

In a hearing, the magistrate gave the TV channels a period of 5 days to appear in the case by designating a lawyer or attorney. The companies investigated are Atresmedia, Mediaset, Radio Televisión Española, Canal Sur, Tv Extremadura, Television of the Principality of Asturias, Television of Galicia, Television of Aragon, Television of the Balearic Islands, ETB, Telemadrid, Canary Islands Public Television, MusicCYL, Castilla Television -La Mancha.


The Hearing imputes 14 television networks for corruption in business in ‘The Wheel’ fraud
SGAE wheel keys. That's how it works

Moreno estimate the fraud at €100m and places the investigated period between 2006 and 2011.

According to his order, the group of investigators could pocket up to €20m a year. Television is one of the main sources of income of the SGAE, which collects €250-300m per year for the use of its catalog. And the songs emitted in the early hours came to account for 70% of the income generated by music on the small screen, although only 1% of the audience listened to them. The criminal activity "could not take place without concerted action with the different television networks," adds the judge.

The operation of the plot was that some members of the SGAE recorded musical themes that were often works of public domain to which minimal changes were made - or even none - in the arrangements. Researchers often contacted young students in conservatories who were offered to appear on television interpreting any of these works. Subsequently they were registered in the entity in their name or that of relatives or friends, or of companies created for this purpose. And, thus, they charged "the accrued copyright when in fact the work is the original classic without any variation," according to the judge. Several of those investigated spent a few years enrolling just a handful of subjects to be authors of hundreds, or even thousands. Hence, not to be detected, they will also look for frontmen.

Those investigated used to transfer 50% of the rights of those melodies to publishers created by the television stations themselves. And, as a last step, certain chain workers filled the night programming with this music. The more these melodies were played, the rights were generated and, therefore, the income of all the members of the plot increased. In some cases, the issues that were broadcast were practically inaudible, but not for that reason they stopped charging. The instructor points out that those investigated could be acting in collusion with workers of television producers, in such a way that "they would pay these commissions so that their repertoire would be disseminated at night, with preference to other works."

The Prosecutor of the National Court filed a complaint in 2016, after various associations and members of the SGAE reported the existence of a group of partners who had been performing irregular actions for 10 years regarding the registration and/or modifications of musical works. The judge suspects that the plot harmed the 120,000 creators that make up the SGAE, by unbalancing their distribution, in addition to imposing, with their voting power, related governments in the entity, which would perpetuate their interests. Since September 2018, the then president of the SGAE José Miguel Fernández Sastrón is also listed as accused by the wheel case.

This plot remains one of the main controversial focuses within the entity: still in the first half of 2018, the emissions between 2 and 7 in the morning generated revenues of €16.15m, 40% of the collection of the music on television. To fix this mismatch, the reform of the Intellectual Property Law established, last year, that no time slot can represent more than 20% of total revenues.

The criminal responsibility of the TV channels

The judgement is based on the prosecutor's report in which he asks for the charges and explains that the criminal activity “could not be carried out without concerted action with the different television networks [...] that would thus be acting in collusion with those so far investigated, because their intervention would be aimed at recovering part of the money they pay annually to the SGAE for the use of the repertoire of the investigated ”.

This practice is known in the sector as "return": its origin, continues the magistrate, is found in the creation by the TV channels of musical publishers with which they intended to reduce the money they pay annually to the SGAE. At the end of the year, if the chains register songs that they themselves emit, they must charge a series of copyrights that reduce the amount paid to the authors' society. They usually keep 50% of those rights. The other 50% is the one that gives input to composers, interpreters, producers and assignees that share percentages of that remaining part.

The order of the judge considers that the criminal responsibility that can be attributed to the people in charge of the departments of the TV channels that carried out the negotiations and those investigated so far must also transcend “to the television entities involved in which the musical repertoires were reproduced in question, because they did not activate or apply any protocol aimed at preventing the commission of criminal acts, nor did they effectively implement control or reaction mechanisms suitable to detect criminal actions committed within their corporations, thus allowing the issuance of musical repertoires not with criteria of quality, obtaining audiences or other lawful purposes for such television entities, but with an objective of a fraud. ”

The resolution indicates that the proceedings carried out so far reveal the absence of prevention mechanisms “aimed at establishing a culture of respect for current legislation. Likewise, these indications show a radical transgression of legality and behaviors that seriously attacked free and straight competition in hiring. ”

For all these reasons, Moreno concludes that there are indications that the TV channels have participated in the omission of these facts, not as a mere instrument of crime “but as authentic subjects of rights and obligations, and therefore must acquire the procedural legal status of the investigated with the rights and guarantees inherent therein ”.

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