Media Storm Threats Gather, So Far Mostly High Winds
Every turbulence places the media in the eye of the storm. Blame the media has become the common refrain, typically from those unable to see beyond their own spin. If only there was control, churn some. If only there was decency, plead others. The media has become the eye of the storm.
Spain’s Council of Ministers agreed to text proposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that Catalunya Radio, TV3 and the Catalan News Agency (ACN) be placed under central government control to guarantee "the transmission of truthful, objective and balanced information, respectful of political, social and cultural pluralism, will be guaranteed,” reported AFP (October 27). The government’s first order of business as it applied the oft quoted Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was removal of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, dissolving the Catalan regional parliament and naming Spanish interior minister Ferran Lopez chief of the Catalan regional police.
When Spanish national police intervened quite bluntly during voting for the October 1st referendum, deemed illegal by the Spanish government, Catalan media, not limited to the regional public broadcasters, put black-clad officers wielding truncheons on front pages and newscasts worldwide. Spanish and Catalan authorities fell into an all-to-familiar spiral. Observers expect more changes “to every government department,” reported the BBC (October 28), to be rolled out cautiously but firmly ahead of elections called for December.
Directors of Catalan public media organizations urged restraint last Friday at a press conference. "I have been asked if we would make barricades,” said TV3 director Vicent Sanchis, quoted by Diario Norte (October 27), “and I replied that the only barricade that will exist is the work of professionals. If they want veracity, balance, neutrality and plurality, we must continue working as we have until now, because until now this has been fully guaranteed. "
Earlier in the week - and before Article 155 was invoked - Catalunya Radio, TV3 and ACN employee representatives petitioned the now-dissolved Catalan parliament to reject Spanish intervention as “a direct attack on the people that violates their right to receive truthful, objective and balanced, pluralistic information, one of the fundamental rights of any democracy.” reported Catalan news portal comunicacio21.cat (October 27). "The mere fact that a Government intended to interfere with and control the operation of (public media) is a test of its willingness to violate these rights. This interference is unacceptable within the framework of a democratic Europe and fundamental principles of the European Union.”
Other public broadcasters in Spain - there are several - expressed a certain wariness toward any prospective government intercession. Basque public broadcaster EiTB warned of "an attack against democracy and freedom of expression," in a statement on its website eitb.eus (October 23). The news council of Spanish national public broadcaster RTVE offered that “public media outlets should serve citizens, not governments.”
The Catalan Audiovisual Media Corporation (Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals - CCMA) was formed as a regional public broadcaster in 1983. It operates the four radio channels of Catalunya Ràdio and the seven TV channels of Televisió de Catalunya. Main radio channel Catalunya Ràdio and TV channel TV3 launched in 1983. In addition to those attached specifically to radio and TV channels it operates another five specialized websites. It has podcasts and YouTube channels, everything expected from a thoroughly up-to-date digital public broadcaster. The CCMA holds a 30% stake in Catalan News Agency.
Like all public broadcasters in Spain, CCMA receives a sizeable government subsidy, in its case the Catalan regional government. The rest of its funding comes from advertising, sponsorships and program sales. For the first four weeks of October Kantar Media’s estimated audience share for TV3 rose to 17.3% from an average for the first nine months of 10.6%, reported El Pais (October 25).
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