Manipulation of the News in the Catalonian public media: the case of TV3 and Cataluña RadioJordi López Santín
The CCMA, a corporation that brings together TV3, Catalonia Radio and the respective Digital Media, during the tripartite governments endured an attempt to rationalize its structure in accordance with the audiovisual legislation in Catalonia: the law of CCMA itself, that of the CAC and the of the audiovisual Through these laws, a decoupling of the public media with respect to the government of the Generalitat and the dependency on Parliament, was sought as an organ representing the general public.
This process was imperfect. The appointment of the members of the Governing Council of the CCMA, which should have been independent and recognized professionals, "examined" or "validated" by a committee of the Parliament, has ended up becoming a distribution of party quotas. Thus, it was popularly said that in that council there are "socialist", "convergent", "PP" or "ICV-EUIA" members. The only guarantee that minimally protected the informational independence of TV3 and Catalonia Radio was the number of directors (12) and the need to reach consensus of two-thirds to appoint the president, or for significant decisions on the contract-programme and changes of the law.
The first government of Artur Mas in 2010 quickly resorted to the so-called "omnibus law" to modify the audiovisual laws regressively, and favourable their own interests. As the counsellor of the presidency, Francesc Oms, said at the beginning of his term of office in the Blanquerna, "we have to get the story under control". and this is what he did; he clearly put TV3 and Catalonia Radio into government hands, he reduced the Government Council to six members (exclusively from CIU, PSC and PP, remember that that government had the support of the PP) and later to five, taking advantage of the exit of a socialist counsellor and accepting a counsellor from the ERC orbit, after the elections in which Mas needed the support of ERC.
THE BALANCE TILTED TO THE SIDE OF THE GENERALITAT
This reduction in the number of council members made it more "monochrome" and thus came to the "zip-fastener" negotiation of the most significant positions. CIU stayed on in charge of the management of TV3, ERC with the management of news. "Control of the story" was put in place and was kept in the hands of a few.
Given this distribution, and despite the will of independence and objectivity of many journalists and the critical action of the Information Councils of TV3 and Catalonia Radio, as regards significant decisions such as reporting on the election and structure of the news, as well as in the "casting" of collaborators, the balance ended up leaning towards the side of the Generalitat government.
The company trade union representative councils, trade unions and professional councils of TV3 and Catalonia Radio have continued to denounce the dependence on the government, and the cases of manipulation that this has generated and have tried to generate a consensus among the parliamentary parties for the "misgovernance" and a change in the CCMA legislation.
There has been no decoupling from the dependence of the government due to economic difficulties, since the approval of the Spanish Audiovisual Communication Law and the Law of Budgetary Stability, which directly attacked the heart of regional broadcasting, including that of Catalonia.
Thus, we consider that the objective of the CCMA legislation, expanding the Council, depoliticizing the election of president and for strategic decisions, as well as the signing of the multiannual contract-programme with the government that guarantees the economic stability of the CCMA, are the basic pillars for information and objective programming, independent from the government, at the service of the general public.
Parliamentary talks and consensus were quite advanced, the white paper on the modification of the constituted law and the draft contract-programme written and prepared in hand of the government and the CCMA council when the parliamentary activity was suspended at the beginning of the summer of 2017.
We consider it inescapable that the new parliament, and the new government that emerges from these elections, immediately get to work with a triple objective: particular contribution to the CCMA to counteract the economic asphyxia fostered by the Minister Montoro, with the modification of the calculation of VAT, a new CCMA law and contract-programme for economic stability.
THE FIRST FOUNDATION STONE IS GOVERNMENT INDEPENDENCE
A stable and sufficient CCMA economic situation is not an absolute guarantee against manipulation. We need that the existing organisations inside and outside of TV3 and Catalonia Radio (Professional Information Councils, CAC) are quite vigilant. Threats appear from all sides in such a complex political scenario in Catalonia. As an example, TV3's follow-up of the Brussels demonstration in the electoral campaign was the object of complaints from all sectors. The tension between those who wanted to make a propaganda organ out of the Generalitat's public broadcasting at the service of the now-defunct government, and those who wanted the opposite, have already given, and will do in the future, many episodes in which it is difficult to distinguish between the news broadcasting work of the employees, from the mechanisms of internal and external pressures.
We insist that the first foundation stone is independence from government and overly-close parliamentarian connections, as a representative of citizen sovereignty, who the public media are meant to serve. From this point, we need to achieve that the employees can do their work according their own or other independent criteria (informative, general interest, artistic or entertainment).
There is much work left to be done, given that, at this moment, the ship seems to sailing in the opposite direction.