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.