Spain's Sanchez appoints new public TV chief in pact with Podemos

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s socialist government on Monday put forward a new chief for public broadcaster RTVE after striking a pact with leftist party Podemos, in what could be a template for other political deals that would cement Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s power.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers a news conference following the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal/File Photo

Sanchez, who controls less than a quarter of the seats in parliament, has said he was unlikely to call a snap election and that he wanted to hold the next countrywide vote in 2020 when the current term is scheduled to end.

Most political observers and parties from the opposition however believe a lack of support in parliament will make it difficult for him to pass legislation and he will end up bringing forward the vote.

Appointing a new chief at RTVE, which employs 6,300 people and broadcasts news and programs on five TV channels and six radio stations, was a priority for Sanchez to try and win the next general election as well as local, regional and European votes scheduled for 2019.

The previous bosses of the public firm have come under heavy public fire for their perceived backing of the center-right administration of Mariano Rajoy.

RTVE workers have campaigned for several months against censorship and in favor of political independence. They started earlier this year to wear black clothes on Fridays as a form of protest against the previous management.

The new chief, Tomas Flores, is seen as independent. He has been working at RTVE since 1984 and under left-wing as well as right-wing administrations. He is currently the head of the group’s radio station Radio 3.

His appointment has still to overcome several political hurdles in the Spanish parliament, with the conservative People’s Party likely to use its majority in the upper house Senate to delay the move while several small parties still have to give their blessing in the highly fragmented lower house.

If it goes through as expected, Flores’ appointment would be the first time the socialist party, Podemos and a raft of regional forces teamed up in congress since they toppled Rajoy in a confidence vote last month.

Sanchez is now believed to want to use the same majority to reject a censorship law, change labor laws and boost university scholarships among several other measures aimed at playing well with disillusioned socialists after years of conservative domination.

Reporting by Belen Carreno, Editing by Julien Toyer, William Maclean