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 …
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Publication information: Article title: Spain's Private TV Stations Invigorate News Coverage. Contributors: Davis, Andrew - Author. Magazine title: Nieman Reports. Volume: 48. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 1994. Page number: 27+. © 1999 Harvard University, Nieman Foundation. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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