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.
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.
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.
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.
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.