We’re taking a second crack this week at the politicised, polarised coverage coming out of Spain in the aftermath of the independence referendum in Catalonia. Hundreds of would-be voters were left injured in a brutal police response to an electoral process that the Spanish government called unconstitutional. This provoked another round of largely partisan coverage, the tone and content of which depended on the news source – whether the report was coming from outlets based in Madrid or Barcelona.
Journalists at the Madrid-based national broadcaster, TVE, are calling out their own bosses for one-sided reporting.
On the Catalonian side, the coverage on the publicly-funded TV3 was similarly biased. The rival channels do have one thing in common: the way they are run.
A legal change made five years ago allows both governments to directly appoint the heads of publicly owned TV channels. Politicians may like that, but the resulting journalism leaves much to be desired.
They [Spain’s TV3] altered the natural order of this news story. They assigned greater importance to the government in Madrid even though the story was about Catalonia. It’s a constant subversion.
“TVE began with the political side of the story – comments from the deputy prime minister – instead of starting with the events in Catalonia,” explains Ferran Monegal, a TV critic with El Periodico. “They altered the natural order of this news story. They assigned greater importance to the government in Madrid even though the story was about Catalonia. It’s a constant subversion.”
Remarking on her network’s coverage of the events, TVE presenter Raquel Sans says: “I could not follow every detail of TVE’s coverage. However, I did see a Spanish military policeman helping a man with his
son. It’s great that the police corps are considerate with minors, but to elevate one single story into a heroic act on a day when almost 900 people were injured could be seen as a bit unbalanced.”
Journalists tend to be sceptical creatures, so news organisations can be hotbeds of discontent. But you’ll seldom see a revolt as public as the one at TVE.
The hashtag waved around says verguenza, Spanish for “shame”. TVE employees in Madrid waved those signs at their senior producers who issue editorial orders, and who remained in their seats.
“The protest was not organised, it was spontaneous,” explains Alejandro Caballero, president of the journalists’ committee at TVE. “It made absolutely clear to the management that we do not condone this behaviour. We feel ashamed. We are seeing things on other channels. State television, which should be first to tell the public what is happening, actually relinquished that obligation altogether. They have chosen not to report on an extremely serious matter, one of the biggest constitutional crises of recent years. That’s why we are calling for the resignation of the head of news.”
Which brings us to TVE’s head of news, Eladio Jareno, and how he got the job. Up until 2012, if the Spanish government wanted to appoint a new director of TVE, it required the consent of two-thirds of parliament – a rule meant to ensure a consensual approach in the running of public broadcasting in Spain.
The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy‘s Popular Party changed that, reverting back to the days when the government could make that appointment unilaterally and stack the journalistic deck in its favour.
That rule change didn’t just affect Madrid and the way TVE was run. It also allowed the regional government in Barcelona to appoint its own man to run TV3, the publicly-funded broadcaster in Catalonia.
TV3 and its sister news channel, 3/24, have a clear pro-independence bias, reflecting the position of Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont.
3/24 is not above taking the story from referendum day and decorating it with a rousing soundtrack, taking dramatic license – melodramatic license – with the news.
“The future of journalism, at least in Spain, is coming to an end,” says Monegal. “We’ve reached the point where journalists are soldiers fighting in the trenches, working for a particular cause. When reporting the news, journalists should all be stateless. They shouldn’t raise any specific flag; they should actually raise all of them and be at the service of all of them. Not just one.”
Alejandro Caballero, president of the Journalists Committee, TVE
Raquel Sans, presenter, TV3
Ferran Monegal, TV critic, El Periodico
Ana Isabel Fernandez Viso, Universidad Auoónoma de Barcelona
Source: Al Jazeera