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The International Writers Magazine: Espana and the Media

The Influence of the Media on Spain
• James Skinner
Here in Spain its business as usual, chaos all round.


Spanish Media and the Consensus:

Apart from all the corruption scandals and the continued demonstrations around the country the economic situation goes from bad to worse. The latest figures from the international finance gurus, IMF, European Central Bank, OECD and the like show a continued negative growth for the next couple of years. They also see a lack in reducing the national debt. Unemployment continues to shoot through the roof (at + 27%) and what is even worse; the country has lost over a quarter million citizens in 2012 including around sixty thousand qualified youngsters that have emigrated elsewhere. The future predictions are just as bad. No signs of abatement until 2016. I daren’t mention the banking system as it is still having convulsions and is far from being cured.

The conservative government (PP) under Mariano Rajoy has failed to curb the onslaught. His original pledge of reducing the above, including a reduction in taxes is nowhere to be seen. So where has he gone wrong?

To start with Spain continues to maintain an unsustainable public sector. It is still divided into 17 mini-states, each with its own parliament and regional administration, 8000 town councils with complete autonomy in local affairs plus hundreds of thousands of subsidized institutions all creaming off taxpayers’ money, which in itself is a dwindling commodity. The trade unions are basically untouchable and apart from causing continued havoc is another of the many recipients of public funds. The number of actual union members is a pittance compared with their power to influence the mass of workers in the country through archaic collective bargaining reminiscent of bygone days of united worker strength. In nearly a year and a half in power Rajoy hasn’t even addressed these issues. Finally we have the independence movements in full swing in Catalonia and the Basque country with Galicia waiting in the wings. This is a real hot potato ready to explode. 

But how could the new right wing government tackle the above main drawbacks to impose a plan to recover the economy anyway?

The first item would be to examine the original Constitution designed back in 1978 and change the impossible clauses that are hampering the nation. In other words the ‘coffee for all’ setup from the Felipe Gonzalez’s Socialist government days needs an overhaul. The catch though, as I have said all along is to reach a state pact with the ‘other’ majority party. This won’t happen though because the socialists still wish to stick to the old and outdated welfare state whereby ‘Daddy State’ will look after everyone. Private and privatization is out of the question. However, the party (PSOE) under ‘Freddy’ Rubalcaba is in turmoil. An internal power struggle is taking place to replace him. In the meantime the usual pastime of insulting the government continues. It goes nowhere and just adds fuel to the fire. The tragedy is that all the global massive economic changes that are taking place in the outside world that affect the whole of ‘sick’ Europe including Spain are ignored by most citizens partially due to the politicians but enhanced by a rancid left-wing Spanish media that is equally to blame for sending out the wrong message.

Let’s just take a look at why this has come about.

Radio and eventually television (TVE) during the first half of the 40 years of the Franco dictatorship was heavily censored when dealing with the news. All other information such as sport, entertainment or of a non-political nature was more or less left untouched. As the country moved into the 60’s relaxation began to take place mainly due to the influence of European tourism. With newspapers, the same panorama existed. The brainwashed citizens felt they were living in a fool’s paradise. Up to a point they were as Spain’s economy was booming and a new born middle class was growing. Why upset the apple cart with bad news, politics, violence or sex?

Enter democracy and a complete change took place. As the PSOE took over the reins of the government the flood gates were opened and Spain’s media began to move radically to the left. They were in power from 1982 to 1996; one hell of a long time! National television (TVE) equivalent to the BBC opened the door to freedom but with a left wing bias. Moving on to the autonomous regions a slightly different approach was in motion. Regional government television stations were opened and depending on the ‘political’ flavour, especially separatist oriented regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country the people were subjected to specific material of their areas including political bias. There were obvious discrepancies between regional and national stations if two different political colours were in power respectively. As for the private sector, two major conglomerates took over the country. One was a group named PRISA, originally started by a family called Polanco and COPE owned by the Catholic Church that had a strong hold especially in radio communication. Again from the start of the Socialist government PRISA was akin to the propaganda machine of the government, not only in Madrid but in most of the regional and town councils in Spain. Their tentacles included television, radio and newspapers especially the extremely influential El Pais newspaper. What is even worse, they controlled advertising in other areas of communication. ‘Talk and write ‘left’ or you won’t get the adverts!’ The COPE on the other hand concentrated on its large Catholic congregation, especially in radio broadcasting over nationwide Onda Cero.   

The real change, however took place with the local newspapers. Each autonomous region is divided into provinces and dependent on whether you lived north or south, east or west your local rag would adapt to the highest bidder within the province. Apart from the major cities such as Madrid or Barcelona these smaller newspapers are the backbone of information. In other words and apart from television they are small yet influential and tend to dictate the mood of the average citizen in Spain.


Spaniards like any other humans are more interested in what happens in their neighborhood than an event hundreds of miles away. The headlines can take care of the latter. The same occurs with television. Apart from national gossip chat shows and football - takes center stage most of the days - the locals prefer to know what’s going on within areas and people they can associate with. You may think dear reader that this is quite normal anywhere in the world. True, except for one point regarding newspapers that I shall now lead onto.

Apart from ‘tapas’ bars: Spain is also a country plagued with coffee shops. The morning coffee at the local is a must for almost everyone. Try posting a letter at the main post office at around eleven in the morning and you’ll find half the counters are empty. Same happens with banks, general office workers and the like. Apart from the brew and a bun most establishments offer their customers a selection of newspapers to while the half hour away. This is where the brainwashing begins.

In the more sophisticated coffee shops you’ll find a full assortment of national as well as provincial papers. They will also include a national sports rag Marca that can hardly be considered political; it’s full of football news. However, in the smaller coffee shops, that are the majority, the papers will probably comprise of the local rag nearest to your major home city, a rival one similar to the one I write in, obviously the sports one and lo and behold, the national left wing El Pais. Right wing ones such as ABC and the recent La Gaceta are hardly ever available. The second observation is what the customers actually read during their coffee break. First are the football results and comments, followed by the obituaries column and finally the headlines, both regional and national. There isn’t enough time to read the rest including the economic or political opinion ones that are usually lambasting the conservative party (PP).

Although the subject matter of media is complicated as it would be in any country, the political effect on the Spanish population in general over the last 30 years has been indoctrination of left wing and in certain regions nationalistic bias. Most Spaniards consider the state as the supplier of all goods and services and that the present economic woes are not necessarily due to their own basic democratic foundations embedded in the Constitution. The welfare state continues to be considered an untouchable sacred cow. Any mention of privatization of national institutions just doesn’t hold water.

The blame lies elsewhere and the media continue to fuel this idea despite the fact that Spain is virtually bankrupt in every sense of the word and needs a real overhaul.            


 ‘Maggie’s gone!’ This was probably one of the highlight news items during the month that stood out amongst all the other disasters and grim events hitting the international headlines. Dozens of obituaries, opinions, anecdotes and other bits of information appeared on every kind of media from television to blogs, from twitter to the most remote local rag, Mrs. Thatcher’s life was dissected from cradle to grave. I actually met her before she became Prime Minister when she visited Iran in 1977. She gave an outstanding speech to the small compliment of Brits working in Tehran. From a solemn event to a massacre, we mustn’t forget the other headline horror story; the terrorist attack in Boston. Once again the West has been shaken and proved vulnerable to Islamic hatred using the only weapon that is effective; hidden bombs! The USA is not the only victim. Iraq and Syria, to quote two examples are also suffering from massive bombings where many more innocent human lives are blown up every day. When will it ever stop!     
© James G. Skinner. May, 2013.

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