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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


There are some major differences between the television services in Britain and Spain. I suppose the BBC and TVE equate as State broadcasters. Then in Spain we have other truly commercial national broadcasters such as Antena Tres, Telecinco and La Sexta whereas these stations in the UK operate on a regional basis under the ITV banner.

When it comes to regional broadcasters in Spain they are controlled by the respective regional governments. Hence Telemadrid is governed by the Partido Popular and Canal Sur in Andalucía by the socialist PSOE.

You then have a further layer of stations which are operated by the local town halls. Hardly a city, town or village, however large or small, has not got its own municipal station.
Now in theory this layer of regional or municipal stations should create a truly community level of broadcasting but of course politics prevents that.

The major regional stations are essentially mouthpieces of the administration that governs that specific autonomous region be it Basque, Catalan, Valencian, Andalucian or the capital Madrid.

The town hall stations are blatantly nothing more than local megaphones for the party in power especially at election time.

Indeed the press is full of accusations that a certain town hall under the control of this or that party has excluded the opposition from the airwaves during the elections. Little notice is taken of these protests as in one town hall the socialists will be the abusers whilst in the neighbouring municipality they will be the abused so I guess it all works itself out.

When I ran an English radio service on the Costa del Sol I shared my office with the television station of a small municipality. The diet was council meetings broadcast in depth, major events in the village, a blockbuster movie borrowed from a friendly video shop for illegal transmission and at mid-night on Friday and Saturday a person was delegated to go to the station to put on the pornographic tape. Needless to say the only politician with a right to access was the mayor or one of his cohorts and they set the ‘political’ agenda.

A recent blog on ‘Voto en Blanco’ raised the subject of these regional political stations at this time of economic crisis. The PP administration in Madrid is already talking of privatising Telemadrid and ‘Voto en Blanco’ argued that they all should be sold off first to save the tax payer millions of euros but also in the interests of democracy.

In theory I agree with this stance. There is no justification for politically controlled television at either a regional or town hall level. Furthermore there is even less justification as to why the people should fund these stations through their taxes. What we have to ensure is that in tossing out this bath water we do not pass the baby to “entrepreneurs” who then make money out of broadcasting whilst supporting in their programming their favoured political allies who awarded them the contract.

Community broadcasting yes but for the people and by the people but not on their taxes.

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