The electoral law (Organic Law 5/1985) recognizes and regulates (articles 59 to 67) the access of candidates and parties to public television and public radio networks during electoral campaigns. This access is not exactly equal, but is plural and proportional (based on past electoral performance), and is strictly regulated through an allocation in minutes of free advertisement slots (paid advertising is not allowed) and news coverage. Thus, parties fielding candidates in at least 75% of the districts receive a free slot of 10, 15, 30 or 45 minutes every day, depending on their share of the vote in the previous elections. A similar system operates with regard to news coverage, where the time devoted to each party is also proportionally allocated according to the previous electoral results. Therefore, while new candidates or parties may find it difficult to win media access, the two major parties (PSOE and PP) enjoy some advantage, since they are the only ones that regularly draw more than 20% of the vote (i.e., the threshold established in law to obtain the maximum allocation of time). Whether fair or not, the allocation of these advertising slots and minutes of news coverage is guaranteed by strict Central Electoral Board (Junta Electoral Central) oversight. In fact, many journalists working in the public media are very critical of this rigid system, which subordinates the journalistic interest of the information to the firm allocation of time in order to guarantee proportional access according to the law.
Despite the existence of a similar regulation regarding private television networks (Organic Law 2/1988), access of the candidates to private television stations, radio networks and newspapers is not guaranteed. On the one hand, electoral ads are not free in these media, and on the other, access by candidates is much more unbalanced depending on the political ideology of the few communication giants that openly promote their favorite candidates. It could be said that, while the major private media companies exhibit a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair, or at least plural, coverage of different political positions, as in every other Western European country. Notwithstanding this fact, during the 2008 – 2010 period, the creation of several new small channels following the introduction of digital terrestrial television (DTTV) has exacerbated the politicization of the private television sector at the national, regional and local level. As a reaction to this development, the Spanish parliament began in spring 2010 to discuss an electoral law reform that would extend to the private media the system of proportional news coverage, under the oversight of the Central Electoral Board, which is currently applied in the public media.