JOUR 401: Blog 3

Spain has seen an onslaught of economic and political turmoil over the last decade, and the aura of Spanish media seems to be appropriately reflective. Themes in Spanish media seem to revolve around factors similar to those of United States media: what’s happening in politics, gossip from the royal family, more politics, and, from what I saw during my stay there, what we’re up to over here in good ol’ America (ask me about the Trump election. In one sitting, I learned several Spanish expletives from my lovely host mother).

Like many other European media outlets, Spain has mediums that blatantly support bias towards a particular political party or opinion. Media in Europe is not held to the same objective standards as it is in the United States, though after the election of Donald Trump, objectivity in the United States seems to have more than wavered. For example, Catalonia’s media supports the region’s nationalism and struggle for independence in most of its media. A study by the Global Media Journal states that Catalonians try to disguise their bias in “at least partially mystifying Catalan nationalism thought the use of expressions such as “organic community,” “core values,” and “consensus” (Miley, 2007, p. 3).” The study goes on to say that many journalists and other creators of media “ignore the social conditions under which public opinion is formed” and neglect the consideration of relevant factors, not limited to: “the dominant climate of opinion, the expectations of the Catalan people, the level of political participation of the citizenship, and the social relations of power.”

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Headlines from ElMundo.com regarding President Trump.

Bias can also be seen in other major publications regarding Spain’s main two political parties, PP and PSOE (Partido Popular and Partido Socialista Obrero Español). However, as far as this bias weaving its way into United States culture, it seems Spain isn’t the only Spanish-speaking country receiving a scolding. In fact, an article by the Daily Signal states that most Hispanic news outlets that stream in the United States are immensely biased, not only of their own politics, but of ours as well. Spanish news station Univision reaches 97% of Hispanic households in the United States, accounting for almost 17% of our entire population. Spanish citizens in the United States almost always tend to be liberal, and opinions voiced on Univision are influential deciding factors.

As far as coverage in Spain, what you get depends on who you’re listening to. After the economic crisis, many citizens sought information that didn’t come from or relate to a source of power. People wanted more organic, raw, grassroots coverage. However, traditional media outlets stuck to their safety net of institution, which created two very diverse and almost separate territories as far as coverage. On one side, you had the new-wave journalists who weren’t afraid to print the stories that tick some people off. On the other hand, you had “prepaid” coverage; a tragedy of media outlets bought out by banks, and quiet whispers from their CEOs behind closed doors dictating which stories could run, and even what could be on the front page. For example, this article by The Guardian tells of an incident by the country’s leading newspaper El País, founded fresh off of Franco’s dictatorship in the late 1970s. Struggling with debt, the owner of the paper, Prisa, drafted a deal to gain relief from creditors. The catch? Sixteen percent of shares handed over to the company’s bankers. A former journalist for the paper, Pere Rusiñol, said the result made it impossible to extricate the paper’s coverage from its financial situation, stating:

“You can’t have press freedom in a company that’s bankrupt and belongs to the bank.” 

A media landscape analysis of Spain reveals that there currently exist no professional councils with the authority to punish unethical practices, bad practices, or abuses made by journalists in Spain. The conventional courts of justice are expected solve these cases. So as far as what’s being missed, it might as well be a free-for-all. With no Spanish Associated Press or ethics board to answer to, bias, personal opinion, and even “alternative facts” frequently make their way into Spanish media, while important information could fall by the wayside completely.

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Jose Luis Sainz, CEO (left), and Juan Luis Cebrian, president of PRISA (right) by: GORKA LEJARCEGI

However, not all hope is lost. While the economic crisis in Spain saw many journalists laid off, this wave of misfortune brought forth an even bigger wave of almost guerrilla journalists. According to the same article from The Guardian, these new journalism start-ups are “staffed by a mix of veteran journalists laid off during the economic crisis and young journalists trying to gain a foothold in an industry where few are hiring, the startups tout themselves as willing to ask the questions that traditional Spanish media will not.”

As far as United States coverage of Spain versus Spanish coverage of the United States, a study done by Antonio V. Menéndez Alarcón states: “as expected, there were many more stories in Spanish newspapers about the United States than in US newspapers about Spain (561 versus 238)”.

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JOUR 401: Blog Post 2

Spain is pretty advanced when it comes to media, still having many popular papers, radio stations, and television stations that fight to be the number one informant of the Spanish people. According to the European Journalism Centre, in May 2009 the most popular papers in circulation were Marca, a sports publication with 2.7 million readers daily, followed closely by 20 Minutos with 2.5 million readers daily. Bigger cities like Madrid saw popularity come from more well-known publications such as El País, ABC, and El Mundo. However, after Spain’s economic crisis in 2008, print publications saw advertising revenue drop between 20-34%, affecting many smaller papers in circulation.

As for radio, EJC says that at the end of 2005, while there were roughly 4,877 radio stations live in Spain, only 2,655 were legally transmitting. The other 1,803 were transmitting without a license. Most of the channels are owned by Radio Nacional de España (RNE), and the most popular stations such as Cadena SER in 2009 can see upwards of 4.7 million listeners daily.

In television, the media profile for Spain on BBC notes that Spain has seen “significant expansion” ever since the country switched over to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The most popular programs seem to be TV dramas or “telenovelas,” and RadioTelevision Española (RTVE) is the public broadcaster from the country.

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Important media outlets and publications taken from Spain Media Profile at BBC.com

When it comes to access, it seems to be a grey area.

The implementation of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 saw the birth of Article 20, which gave citizens the right to express their views openly and also protected the right to publish in languages other than Spanish.

The Columbia Journalism Review states Spain’s problem is rooted not so much in a lack of free press, but in a lack of access to information. “Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, and Spain are the only four of the twenty-seven EU countries still without a law establishing the public’s right-to-know,” the article states. Summer 2011 saw an attempt to change, with the socialist party in power at the time releasing a draft of legislation that would essentially by Spain’s FOIA. However, since the enactment, it seems the legislation has done little to pull back the curtains to the inner workings of Spain that journalists seek to validate and compose their stories.

In 2012, the media freedom group “Reporters Without Borders” accused the government of attempting to exercise too much control over Spain’s public broadcaster, RTVE. Apparently, several journalists had been removed following their reputation of criticizing the Popular Party, one of Spain’s political parties. Furthermore, Reporters Without Borders goes on to note the Basque separatist group ETA on its list of predators to the free press after several Spanish journalists are still working under police protection due to threats from this group.

By December 2012, 17.6 million Spanish citizens were on Facebook of the 31.6 million that were even using the Internet, and comes in 27th place for “Most Citizens Using Cellphones” with a whopping 47.3 million citizens taking full advantage of the ever growing mobile trend.

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Spanish headlines during the Ebola crisis.

Press Reference claims that most newspapers and a majority of the electronic media are owned by the Spanish major media groups: PRISA, Vocento, UNEDISA, and Grupo Godó. As for what ownership means for Spanish media, this quote comes directly from PRISA’s mission statement on their website: “defense of freedom, peace, equality and the protection of the environment.”

Meanwhile the Godó Group, a family run business since their creation of La Vanguardia, preaches the following in their message from the Chairman of the Board: “we have been capable of adapting the media to the new era and needs, by transforming the infrastructure into a more agile and flexible one, and yet, not forgetting to carry on investing in quality content.” So it would seem the homestyle, family ownership of media outlets in Spain do more to help access than to hurt it by keeping things old-fashioned and quality based, as opposed to the rat race for speed we see in the United States.

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The Godó Group building, from their website.

As for prominent journalists, I shine my spotlight on Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Born in Cartagena in the Murcia region of Spain in 1951, this journalist/novelist was a war correspondent for RTVE from 1973 to 1994. His print career began with the (defunct) Pueblo, and then took to the screen for state-owned Televisión Española. His first novel, El húsar, was released in 1986, but he received more recognition for his series Alatriste. Since June 2003, he has held a position in the Royal Spanish Academy.

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Arturo P.R., from Wikipedia.

El Mundo, one of the most popular print publications in Spain, started in 1989 as El Mundo de Siglo Veinte, or The 20th Century World. El Mundo retained one of its best-known publishers, Pedro J. Ramirez, from its release in October 1989, all the way until 2014. It is controlled by Italian publishing group, RCS MediaGroup, though since a merger in 2007 it has been owned by Unidad Editorial. El Mundo is said to fall to the center-right of the political spectrum, with liberal and independent undertones. They’ve been the source behind many breaking stories such as the embezzlement scandal by El Guardia Civil and tax fraud by the Central Bank of Spain.

JOUR 401: Blog Post 1

Spain is a historical wonderland where a past of conquistadors and world domination collide with the modern culture of comida and a 4am bedtime. As beautiful as it is diverse, there is more to this Western European country than paella and flamenco.

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Spain’s more recent history starts in 711 AD, when Muslims from North Africa gained control of the country, leaving an influence on art an architecture still present today known as mudejar. In 1469, the country was united by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella. Their marriage unified the country by bringing the two, formerly separate, Christian regions together, and Spain grew larger. In 1492, Christopher Colombus leaves Spain and sets out for the New World, beginning Spain’s age of exploration. Within the next ten years, Catholicism is named the country’s official religion, and most Jews or Muslims are forced to convert in a movement known as the Spanish Inquisition. Fast forward to 1811 where, years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada Invincible, Spain begins to lose control of its other colonies after Venezuela declares independence. Regions such as Cuba and the Phillipines break away from Spain over the next several decades. Spain’s most modern historical blunder comes in during 1939 with the election of dictator Francisco Franco. Franco’s reign lasts until his death in 1975, at which time Juan Carlos de Borbon takes over as king and Spain becomes the constitutional monarchy we know it as today.

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Today, in 2017, Spain claims a population of just under 46.1 million with a median age of 44 years old. Their urban population makes up 82.4% of their total population, and they are currently split pretty evenly with the female population just beating the males with a 50.6% to 49.4% split. The official language of Spain is Spanish (whoa, go figure), and they practice freedom of religion, though most of the population is Catholic. While Spain is made up mostly of people from its native ethnicity, it also sees a decently sized Latin-American population. Unemployment has become a problem in Spain, with an unemployment rate of about 19%. Spanish citizens can be heard complaining about “Ni-ni’s” which are those who fall under the category “ni estudian, ni trabajan” which are the Spanish young people who currently are not working or studying, and are frequently blamed for Spain’s current “1 in 5 unemployed” crisis. However, Spain has seen steady recovery from its highest rate of of unemployment over the last 10 years (27% in 2014).

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Spain is a parliamentary monarchy which, for all intents and purposes (and as stated by my professor when I studied abroad), means they have a king, but he’s basically a figurehead for the actual government who does things. The current king is Felipe VI, and the current president, commonly referred to as Prime Minister, is Mariano Rajoy Brey. He was re-elected recently after a period of unrest and citizen discontentment which saw Spain without a Prime Minister and missing most of its government for almost a year.

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Spain has a nominal GDP of 1.252 trillion, and ranks 14th nominally amongst competitors. It has a labor force of 23 million, and 70% of these occupations fall under the category “services,” with the next highest occupation coming in at 14.1% working in “industry.” Their main industries are: machinery, machine tools, metals and metal manufactures, and their main import and export partners are France and Germany. The main export is machinery, and the main import is fuel. According to the World Fact Book, 21.1% of Spain’s population lies below the poverty line.

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Spain’s most recent internal conflict comes from what is known as the Basque conflict. Basically, from 1959-2011, social groups who sough independence from Spain and  France started a series of movements centered around the organization ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, translation: “Basque Homeland and Liberty.” However, in 2016 the group declared a ceasefire, becoming completely disarmed in 2017. Spain does not currently face any massive international conflicts.