A Brief Response to Román’s “What’s On Catalan TV? Separatists” (WSJ, Jan. 2, 2014)

After reading David Román’s report, “What’s On Catalan TV? Separatists” (The Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2014), one must conclude that TV3, Catalonia’s public TV channel, is monolithic, biased, expensive and even prone to racism and ethnic discrimination. In my opinion, however, Mr. Román’s view, which is based on a rather unbalanced set of interviews, could not be further away from the truth.

Due to its governance structure, the Catalan public television system, which includes TV3 (as a general audience channel) and a few specialized channels, is quite plural. Its governing board must be appointed by a qualified majority of two thirds in the Catalan parliament, therefore including a key part of opposition parties. An advisory committee on programs is also chosen by parliament. Both bodies are regularly monitored by a parliamentary commission and a media council formed by media professionals.

In line with its overall mission of serving the Catalan public and respecting democratic principles, TV3’s information programs are fair and broad in both content and coverage. In TV3 I have had the opportunity of participating in roundtables (a regular feature of the main channel’s morning programs) with other speakers that represented a wide variety of opinions: from journalists working for quite conservative pro-centralization newspapers to radical left-wing writers.

The care with which the Catalan public network approaches its double function of entertaining and informing shows up in its current ratings. TV3 is currently leading in audience shares in Catalonia. According to the analysis of GfK, one of the top marketing firms in the world, TV3 also leads in quality ratings among all (Spanish- and Catalan-speaking) general audience channels in Catalonia. Its reliability score for 2012 was 96.3 (over 100) and its impartiality score was 92.2 (over 100).(1) Just for the sake of comparison, and again according to GfK, Netherlands’ public television scored 71 in reliability in 2006. The Dutch commercial channels got 58.(2) According to BBC’s 2012/13 Annual Report, the British network had a score of 83.1 over 100 in general quality.(3)

Funding for the Catalan network comes from two sources: commercial advertising and public subsidies. Public grants amounted to about €30 (or $40) per person in 2012.(4) This is less than the amount levied through TV licenses in those European countries that use them to support their public channels. Assuming a 4-person household (per TV license fee), in 2011 the per capita cost of public TV was $130 in Switerland, $121 in Norway, $58 in the United Kingdom and $38 in Italy.(5)

Mr. Román also writes that in Catalan TV characters such as “a thug, a prostitute or a lowlife” speak in Spanish. The implication is that all the other characters do not and that Catalan TV is intentionally framing Spaniards as second-rate citizens. The claim is striking. Foreign programs are dubbed in standardized Catalan – in line with norms approved by the network and defended by an ombudswoman. In home productions Catalan actors employ Catalan – admittedly following their own dialectal varieties. It is true that Spanish is never dubbed in information programs but I am sure Mr. Román was not referring to them. It would be really great if Mr. Román could back up his claims on language use with specific data.


(1) Data from Memòria anual d’activitats 2012 of the Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals, pages 37-40.
(2) On Dutch data, see van Meurs, Lex, Intomart GfK, Bas de Vos, Publieke Omroep, and Bas van den Putte (2006) “Mapping programme quality.”
(3) On BBC data, Annual Report.
(4) On TV3 budget, see Comptes anuals 2012.
(5) For data on TV licence fees, see Television Licence.

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11 Responses to A Brief Response to Román’s “What’s On Catalan TV? Separatists” (WSJ, Jan. 2, 2014)

  1. J. J. says:

    After having read your view about the article, and the article itself, some ideas. Putting aside the unfortunate beginning of the Wall’s piece, one of your failures, in my opinion, stands in thinking already TV3 as a State channel, when actually it’s just a regional channel. You compare the catalan channel’s cost with other ones in Europe, which are statewide. Aren’t the Catalans also paying RTVE? “They don’t want to!” You could answer. But it’s not given to catalans in the current democratic frame to decide which channel they choose to pay. They pay both because their “multiple” Governments are using the space for propaganda. So the cost for catalans in public tv is much higher than what you point. A more precise comparison would be with European regional TV. Your comparison reflects, in my opinion, the independentist institutional tendentiousness happening in Catalonia, even before the referendum takes place. Can be a referendum impartial when the autonomous Government is already behaving as a State?
    Your defense on TV3’s plurality because of an enough number of “unionist” speakers reminds me the arguments that have been used recently in Catalonia against the responses pointed to Francesc de Carrera’s “Cataluña: la espiral del silencio”. You assume that as certained numbers of chairs left for no independist in some roundtables are enough for plurality. But the lack of itself remains on the treatment of information, as the WSJ is pointing, 24 hours in the several channels. I’m afraid that the critics on TV3 partiality last year is not reflected on 2012 GfK index, as well. “Pro-centralization newspapers”? The defense of the statu quo doesn’t seem to me the same.

    • carlesboix says:

      The point is not whether it is a “state’ or a “regional” channel. What matters is audience shares: the Catalan TV network has shares comparable to any other high-quality European public channel.

  2. Pingback: Response to WSJ report about Catalan TV

  3. Pingback: Resposta de Carles Boix a l’article publicat al Wall Street Journal contra TV3 – VilaWeb | Humbert.Cat

  4. Jordi Gaset says:

    La dada sobre els análisis de GfK és sorprenent. No seria recomenable fer-ne més porpaganda per defensar TV3 ara que està sent atacada i acusada de manipular la gent?

  5. Mario says:

    Muy interesante. Sin embargo, falta hablar de hechos concretos, y no de estructuras. Por ejemplo: ¿qué representan programas parciales como Adiós España u Hola Europa? ¿Fue la cobertura de Cadena Humana imparcial?
    El artículo se desacredita cuando trata de poner a TV3 por encima de prestigiosas cadenas como la BBC. La intrepretación de los resultados de la consultora es la propia de una encuesta: los catalanes que ven TV3 creen que es imparcial. En China lo mismo creen los telespectadores de CCTV.
    Por último, los programas extranjeros, como las series, no se subtitulan: se doblan al catalán. ¿Me equivoco?

  6. Mercè Cugat says:

    Moltes gràcies Sr. Boix per la seva argumentada replica que confio que el diari publiqui.
    Si ho volem, amb la col.laboració de tots, ara sí que podem aconseguir que el nostre país arribi a ser un país “normal”.

  7. Pep says:

    Despite Román’s article is based upon partial information, there are some implications that are not easy to analyse from a quantitative approach. For instance, “APM?”, a TV show I’m sure you know, answers, from my perception, to what Román puts forward at the very begining (“If you are a thug, a prostitute or a lowlife in a show aired on the Catalan-language TV3 network, chances are you speak Spanish”). There is a great unbalance between the number of Spanish lowlives ridiculed and the Catalan ones.
    Needless to say that “APM?” is just a TV show and I don’t want to develop a theory from a sample, but perhaps we should leave some room for self-criticism, despite I feel very comfortable watching TV3 although I’m not independentist.

  8. endavid says:

    Are those Gfk reliability rankings freely available? I am looking for them in Gfk.com but I can’t find them anywhere…

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