Spain's Private TV Stations Invigorate News Coverage

By Davis, Andrew | Nieman Reports, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Spain's Private TV Stations Invigorate News Coverage


Davis, Andrew, Nieman Reports


With a mournful looks on her face the Spanish television host leaned toward the grieving father and asked, "Fernando, what is the pain like of losing your daughter? I want you to share your pain with us."

A rather delicate question to ask on live television to a man who had only hours earlier discovered that his 15-year-old daughter had been brutally raped and murdered. The plethora of this type of reality show is probably the most obvious and macabre manifestation of the change in Spanish news and public affairs programming since private television first hit the airwaves in late 1989.

In little more than four years the privates have caused an informational earthquake in what had been a highly stable television landscape dominated for more than 30 years by TVE, the television arm of Radio Television Espanola (RTVE), the state-run monopoly. Along with the first wave of monopoly breakers - Spain's six regional public stations - the young privates are changing the way Spaniards see the world and how they see themselves. Many may not like what they see, but they continue to tune in at an average rate of nearly 3.5 hours per day per capita, one of the highest rates in the European Union.

I think I fall somewhat below average, but in the past 16 months I have watched my fill of Spanish television, and I have seen how this new competition is invigorating news programming but also exposing some frayed patches in Spain's tightly knit social fabric.

The three new private stations consist of two commercial networks and a pay TV service. Tele 5, partly owned by Italian media mogul and now Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, devoted little resources to news, but its innovative format helped earn respectable ratings. Tele 5 incorporated a series of well-known commentators to analyze and offer opinions on events of the day. The station also offers the most sensational of all the new reality shows. In one of its most popular programs, the Truth Machine, controversial figures are quizzed by a panel of well-known guests and then strapped into a lie detector. John Wayne Bobbit even made a recent appearance. Bobbit picked up a hefty fee, but the machine accused him of lying when he claimed he didn't force his wife to have sex with him the night of her ultimate revenge.

Antena 3 began investing heavily in news programming after a management shuffle in 1992. The station hired a well-known anchor from TVE to head its news and subsequently convinced other popular anchors to jump ship. Its investigative unit recently broadcast slick documentaries on a failed coup attempt in 1982 and another on the CESID, Spain's CIA.

Canal +, the pay station, launched a low-budget news operation that relies heavily on news feeds and a handful of reporters to produce a nightly news show. The station also broadcasts Peter Jennings on World News Tonight and its newscast is probably the most American in style.

Per capita, Spaniards read fewer newspapers than just about any other nationality in the European Union and have always had a healthy appetite for television news. TVE's daily news broadcasts consistently finish among Spain's top-rated programs. TVE's Informe Semanal, a news magazine similar to 60 Minutes, enjoys solid ratings after more than 20 years on the air. The public network broadcasts more documentaries in a month than American commercial stations air in a year. Debate programs, a kind of Spanish talk show, were already prolific when Phil Donahue was just cutting his teeth.

The debates generally feature a host and a variety of well-known guests who expound on issues of social import, but always with a curious Spanish flair. One popular debate program featured a regular striptease segment as a means of offering an intermission from the more weighty matters of the discussion. That was on the public, not a private, station.

On the daily front the advent of the privates has infused newscasts with the energy of dozens of young, inexperienced journalists determined to challenge TVE's deferential style of government-sources-know-best reporting.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Spain's Private TV Stations Invigorate News Coverage
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?