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Police evict TV staff in Spain after closure of station

media captionPolice ringed off the RTVV building overnight before starting the evictions, according to Spanish news agency Efe

Liquidators escorted by police are evicting staff from a public TV station in the Spanish city of Valencia, after an order to shut it down.

They moved in after staff at the loss-making station defied the closure order by the regional government and continued broadcasting.

Valencia's government took the decision to close RTVV after losing a court battle over staff cuts.

It is the first regional TV station to be closed down as austerity bites.

Spain, whose banks were crippled during the financial crisis, has been struggling to improve its public finances.

Valencia's government is run by the conservative Popular Party, which is in power nationally in Spain under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

In Greece, the conservative-led coalition government shut down the national broadcaster ERT on grounds of cost in June, sacking 2,600 staff. Its replacement is due to go on air next year.

Tearful farewell

Police ringed off the RTVV (Radio Television Valenciana) building overnight before starting the evictions, the Spanish news agency Efe reports.

image copyrightAFP
image captionStaff continued to broadcast through the night at the station.
image copyrightAFP
image captionA staff meeting was held inside the station.
image copyrightAFP
image captionTV personnel and supporters later protested outside the building.
image copyrightAFP
image captionSome 1,700 people were employed by the broadcaster.
image copyrightReuters
image captionProtests against the closure had continued all month.

During the night, staff inside went on air to bid a tearful farewell to viewers.

They were accompanied by politicians from the opposition Socialists, who called for the resignation of Valencia's regional Prime Minister, Alberto Fabra.

Tension has been high since the closure was announced on 5 November.

The regional government had initially tried to sack 1,000 of the station's 1,700 employees, but staff successfully challenged the decision in court.

In response, the regional government shut the broadcaster down entirely, saying it could not afford to reinstate the staff.

Spain has 13 other regional public television stations, some of which have several channels, as well as the national broadcaster Television Espana, AFP news agency reports.

'Anti-protest law'

In another development on Friday, the Spanish cabinet was due to discuss a controversial bill envisaging tougher penalties for unauthorised protesters.

Some provisions of the draft Public Safety Act have already been softened.

The proposed offence of participating in an unauthorised protest in front of Congress, the Senate or regional assemblies has been downgraded from "very serious", when it would have been punishable by a fine of between 30,001 and 600,000 euros (£500,000; $815,000).

It now becomes "serious", and punishable by a fine of between 1,001 and 30,000 euros (£25,000; $41,000).

The draft act has been dubbed the "anti-protest law" by civil rights activists.

Since the economic crisis took hold in 2008, Spain has seen increasing street unrest, with riot police frequently fighting running battles with protesters.

On Thursday, 19 people were arrested in the Spanish capital on suspicion of injuring five students and causing damage during an anti-fascist protest at the city's famous Complutense University on 20 November.

The suspects are believed to be anarchists, the Spanish interior ministry said.

Anti-government bloggers condemned the arrests as a "witch hunt".

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