Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 17.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Good news for pensioners, who've been demonstrating a lot recently.
  • Go to this page from The Local for some amusing – if very patronising - British Pathe News items on 1960s Spain. To be fair, Spain was officially part of the Developing World back then. Before the economy was finally opened up and tourism took off
Life in Spain
  • It's a commonplace comment – at least on this blog – that, however wonderful it is in other ways, Spain is a 'low ethics' society. This is never more obvious than when there's an horrendous crime or accident and an accused is fingered. The article below addresses this, pointing out that Spain is the only European country without a media regulatory body. Possibly because of the usual links between the government of the day and big business. All very unimpressive. And at times sickening. It's hard sometimes to believe that fair trials can take place here. It's one of the ways in which the Franco years have left Spain many years behind other European societies. Something, as they say, should be done. But it won't happen under this PP administration, I fear.
  • Talking of ethics in general and the 'bait and switch' deception in particular . . . A major electricity company has been fined for deliberately tricking customers into a new – ultimately more expensive – deal. Various consumer watchdogs have said they're less than surprised as they regularly get complaints from householders who've been approached by salespersons on the doorstep or by phone. Spain is not unique with this, of course. It's a question of degree. But it is a reflection of weak consumer protection.
  • Ahead of a minor operation, my insurance company asked for more information from the surgeon. I took a letter to his clinic and requested a response by email. Last night I got a call saying I had to go and collect his letter, as data protection laws meant they could neither email nor mail it to me. Is this another example of Spanish providers demanding/expecting their customers to waste their time, or is it true? A quick search suggests UK practitioners and hospitals are instructed to encrypt their emails if data is sensitive. So, they clearly can use email. Anyone know?
  • By the way . . . . The insurance company declined to deal with my request for authorisation of the May op until early April. Apparently, their computer won't respond until then. So, Computer says No, again. More time wasted.
  • Rhetorically . . . Why don't even educated spaniards use punctuation in their emails? It doesn't help with understanding a foreign language, especially one in which word order can be very different from your own.
  • Any excuse for a holiday1: Talking with my insurance company about repairs to my car I was told nothing could be done next Monday as it was a holiday – Fathers'/St Joseph's Day. This turns out to be true of only certain parts of Spain. I think because every region has discretion over a few days additional to the hundreds shared nationally.
  • Any excuse for a holiday 2: It's St Patrick's Day around now. He never had anything to do with Spain but this is irrelevant. A fiesta has to take place in his honour. In Plaza de España in Pontevedra's case:-

The EU
  • I bet no one can name the last 2 Secretary Generals of the Commission. Catharine Day and Alexander Italianer. But many folk will surely know who the recently appointed one is - Martin Selmayer. Who might yet become even more famous/notorious.
  • On this . . . German conservatives now control all the top posts in the EU civil service. Does anyone really expect this will be tolerated for ever, no matter how un-authoritarian they try to be? Of course, that adjective doesn't apply to Selmayer. He apparently makes not the slightest attempt at this. It will end in tears.
  • Last night saw the first programme in a BBC series on the Camino, involving 6 or 7 'celebrities' who'll be doing the French Way from the Spanish border. As they'll take only 2 weeks, not all of this will be done on foot. I was astonished at how unprepared for the challenge they were, perhaps deliberately uninformed by the programme makers. About, for example, the absolute need for walking poles, and how to use them to great effect. And about the need for prior training with a heavy rucksack before setting out. They walked only 7km(4.4 miles) on Day 1, albeit almost all uphill, and were clearly exhausted by the end of less than 2 hours' walking. Meaning a lot of moaning and whingeing. But at least they'll be doing what I've never been prepared to do and sleep in the dormitories of pilgrim hostels. I feel rather sorry for them.

Since Sunday, when Gabriel Cruz's body was found, news reports and current affairs programmes have become almost monographic, with different treatments that have sometimes led to complaints. 

We discuss with experts from different fields this media attention, and which institutions should ensure that the rights of victims and their families are respected. The murder of Gabriel, like previous media cases of disappearances or deaths, is generating controversial media treatment that moves along the fine line between news and entertainment.

The general interest is undeniable, and it translates into million-dollar, record-breaking audiences for the programs that address the event. But it's not the 'what' that's being criticized, it's the 'how'. The way in which some programmes are delivered on certain channels is again being questioned, and FAPE has intervened via a communication calling for respect and ethics in news coverage.

After the revolution in audiences that took place on the same Sunday, when it became known that the body of the little one had appeared, on Monday channels, news and current affairs programmes turned up for the event. "It's too tempting for television," says Guillermo López, a professor of journalism at the University of Valencia.

On Tuesday morning, TVE, Antena 3 and Telecinco broadcast live the funeral of the 8 year old boy from the Cathedral of Almeria. The image from the church, around which giant screens had been installed, alternated with the latest information about the event, during almost the entire program, and for the third consecutive day on the networks.

The"disproportionality" of the information loops:

The deployment involves many hours of grilling, but the problem arises when you analyse whether there is really so much content. Mariola Cubells, a specialist journalist and television critic for Cadena SER, is clear:"We don't do a one-and-a-half hour program because we have a lot of information to communicate. No, we do it by repeating the same thing over and over again. It's excessive," she told VERTELE.

Ferrán Monegal, a journalist and TV specialist who collaborates with 'La Sexta Noche' and writes in El Periódico agrees: 'The networks' directors demand that they keep the subject on screen for hours on end. This is when prudence takes second place, and we have to enter speculative terrain, repeating images and information on a loop.

According to the President of the Audiovisual Council of Andalusia, Emelina Fernández,"They shouldn't be able to fill 4 hours of television time by broadcasting hoaxes, making parallel judgments, and violating the rights of both the family and the victim".

"Immediacy doesn't allow for calm":

What is being debated, in short, is more a question of ethics. "There are a series of principles and rights that must prevail over the spectacle", summarizes the President of the Audiovisual Council of Andalusia, a public audiovisual authority so concerned about this media treatment that it has even published a Guide of good practices for the news treatment of disappearances, and another Guide for the treatment of judicial processes.

Their concern is shared by the experts. Monegal places the focus of criticism at"confusing speculations, the digging, with the strict information of the event", for example when the cameras 'joyfully' portray moments of popular feeling such as the banners against the detainee or a crowd in front of the police station: "Popular feelings are one thing, but the problem is when the television encourages this type of popular reaction".

For Professor Guillermo López, the criteria used by the programmes to manage the news means that "television is set up as judge and jury", and as in cases that everyone agrees are "paradigmatic", such as those of Diana Quer and Dolores Vázquez, the accused becomes guilty or parallel trials are encouraged: "Immediacy doesn't allow for the calm that is necessary to check and be able to say: Look, we don't have any more data; we don't know any more", Cubells reasons.

"From the morning programmes, a shocking frivolity"

Referring to concrete examples, both Monegal and Cubells allude to the special programme that 'Expediente Marlasca' put out on the Sunday. For the journalist, "They did an exposition work from a purely informative point of view, without entering into morbidity or speculation". For the journalist, it was the"most restrained and sensible" programme, although she makes it clear that "nothing new was said" about the rest either, but adds that "Marlasca provided the information. It was the only one I heard say, 'We don't know that.'”.

Monegal:"The ladies of the morning":

For this television expert, everything would be easier if the programmes were to follow a maxim:"Once you have reported exactly what has happened, there is really nothing more to say". From his point of view, when television treatment seeks to "fill to the brim", what is achieved is "confusion giving rise to speculation".

Monegal doesn't hesitate to put the spotlight on the morning magazine programmes. Both at the individual level, recognising that "I was surprised to hear journalists already refer to the arrested woman as 'the murderer', when there was still no verdict", and at the format level, directly criticising that "In this type of case, the most terrifying programmes are the morning magazines on television. The ladies of the mornings."

This expert introduces a clear differentiation between event specialists, who for him "usually work much more impeccably", and the morning programmes: "The problem is when this comes within the dynamics of a magazine presenter". Emelina Fernandez is much tougher: "The morning magazines touch on these themes from a frivolous and frightening point of view. They don't have the slightest degree of journalistic ethics. You can't call that journalism.

The tertullias and combing the streets

The situation is aggravated by what Mariola Cubells calls "the fashion for tertullias” [a sort of chat show in which a group of 'celebrities' all talk at once and say whatever TF they like]. For her, they are "experts in everything" who, along with disproportionate content and repetition, cause "people to say things they shouldn't say". In the same vein, Monegal defends the difference between a journalist and a communicator: "The word journalism stays away from some areas, because journalism has codes. It has ethics".

The collaborator of 'La Sexta Noche' also points out another practice as common as for him as it is unwise: "The horrifying system of going with a microphone asking neighbours and the public for their impressions."A way of acting that, like others, responds to the need to "fill TV hours".

Different treatment on public and private TV:

Despite the fact that at times the treatment of news on all the channels seems very similar, Emelina Fernández clarifies that "the cases we have analysed from a qualitative point of view have an absolutely clear and abysmal difference between private and public television". Although she acknowledges that public broadcasters sometimes and by mimicry engage in practices that are not very good, she explains that the data show that it is "nothing like what some private broadcasters do, and especially some private station programmes".

Guillermo López also believes that "the public continues to maintain more powerful ethical criteria", and explains the lack of the same level of it in the private channels because "they do not have much incentive to respect ethical limits instead of being carried away by morbidity, because morbidity gets you big audiences".

The demand the need for regulation and control:

Both the President of the Audiovisual Council of Andalusia and the professor agree that in these cases more regulation is needed, although from different points. Emelina Fernández begins by saying that "CNMC should act. Just because a television station is private, it cannot be allowed to engage in certain pseudo-journalistic practices.”

Although she clarifies that "we promote media self-regulation in such media cases", she believes that there should be rules of conduct, so she requests that CNMC should analyse the content of these programmes to see if they are "violating fundamental rights", sanctioning if necessary in accordance with the law.

This type of criticism could be solved by the creation of a State Audiovisual Council, an already unanimous request from all parties and one of the points approved by the state pact against gender violence in Congress. Emelina Fernández points out that both the European Council and the European Commission have urged Spain to create such a body, because it continues to be "an absolute exception" throughout Europe and even in countries such as Mauritania, which already has it. "It's bankruptcy of the democratic system", the President of the CAA said.

"It's bankruptcy of the democratic system."

Professor Guillermo López includes another factor in the equation. Recalling that 'private television stations are also a public service who are allocated an administrative concession by the state', he makes it clear that 'the concession can be taken away from them'. At the same time, he acknowledges this is a very remote possibility: "Private TV stations are very powerful, the government doesn't dare to get involved. Let's see who is the brave one who reverses a concession.”

López agrees that "self-regulation is clearly not enough", and he denounces "a certain degree of government passivity when it comes to legislating". That is why, although he himself knows that it is a very unpopular opinion, he reasons that "a little interventionism would not be at all bad, to legislate the treatment given by the media".

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 17.3.18

1 comment:

Maria said...

Good news for pensioners? If the pensions were raised at the level of cost of living, sure. But the raises he proposes are the ones everyone is up in arms about - 0.25% a month. He says he plans to raise the lowest pensions more if the 2018 budget is approved. But he's also promised to raise the Guardia Civiles' salary and the Policia Nacional's with the same excuse. At this rate, the 2018 budget will be approved when Rajoy leaves office or wins majority again, after the next elections. Lower the IRPF for the lowest pensions? The lowest pensions aren't obliged to even file it.

His words are as empty as his head.