MADRID: The two Spanish public TV stations which stopped broadcasting ads at the start of this year were the only free-to-air channels which saw ratings improve in January.

Last year, the country's government decided to begin phasing out spots on TVE1 and TVE2, while also considering extending the amount of minutage permitted on advertiser-funded stations.

Figures released by Barlovento, the consultancy, show that TVE1 took an 18.6% audience share in the first month of 2010, up by 2% on December.

Its sister station, TVE2, posted a more modest uptick of 0.1%, to 3.6% overall, but this compared with contractions recorded by all of its private rivals.

Telecinco, owned by Mediaset, the Italian conglomerate, registered a fall of 0.3%, to 14.8%, with Antena3 down by 0.9%, to 13.7%.

Similarly, Cuatro, operated by Prisa, experienced a drop from 7.6% to 7.3% month-on-month, with LaSexta witnessing a slide from 6.4% to 6.1%.

Telecino and Cuatro recently agreed to a merger, and while their channels will continue to operate separately, it is hoped the combined weight of this new entity will give them stronger bargaining power.

According to Warc's most recent Consensus Forecast, Spanish adspend tumbled by more than 20% in 2009, with a further decrease of around 2% expected this year.

Data sourced from Associated Press/Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff