In Spain, reading levels are very low, educational failure very high and public contempt for culture colossal. However, not everything is lost: we can consider ourselves the world leaders in telebasura – trash TV. Broadcasters have a complete disregard for taste or decency, airing material unsuitable for children at all ours of the day, profiting from scandal and violence, exploiting sex in true macho style, practising trial by television and disseminating mumbo-jumbo and pseudoscience. The news is partisan and sensationalist, the language vulgar and advertising floods the schedules. But as long as audience figures rise, they're allowed to get away with it.
In fact audiences are glued to the screen: the average consumption of television in Spain in 2010 was 234 minutes per person per day.
It would be unjust to say that television in Spain is merely bad. Television in Spain is appalling. The stars of the schedule are sitcoms, whose pathetic acting and bargain basement scripts bely the gusts of canned laughter over every other line. There are reality shows that alienate the contestants as much as the viewers, and political discussions that are as extreme as they are biased. The only news items worthy of the name are transmitted by TVE, a public channel that, now that it has stopped showing advertising, is stimied by financial problems.
While TVE earned 63.5m euros less in 2010 than the previous year and closed its accounts with a loss of 48m euros, the private channels are earning money like never before. The income of Telecinco rose 30.3% during 2010, to 855.1m euros. At Antena 3 they "only" made a net return last year of 109.1m euros, an increase of 79.6% on 2009.
One main channel alone, Telecinco, holds 51% of advertising thanks to a merger of channels allowed last year by the National Commission of Competition. Less plurality, more profit: Telecinco is the channel of Belén Esteban, the ex-wife of a bullfighter crowned by the Spanish audience as the "queen of the people". The people of telebasura.
Javier Pérez de Albéniz blogs on Spanish television at eldescodificador.wordpress.com. English translation by Howard Rouse
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