Under the rigorous censorship that prevailed during the Franco regime, only news favorable to the government could appear in the press, and there was little concern for the veracity of such reports. With no reliable coverage of political events, reportage diminished to a few items pertaining to society news, sports, or business.
A new press law, approved in 1966, provided a degree of liberalization for publications and eliminated prior censorship, although newspapers were expected to exercise self-censorship. The 1966 law did not usher in freedom of the press, but it did expand the scope of news that could be published; newspapers even began debating what forms of government might evolve after Franco's death.
Although the 1978 Constitution guarantees the right to disseminate information, as of mid-1988 the 1966 press law had not been replaced, and regulations dating from the Franco years had been used in attempts to control journalists who published articles offensive to the government. In addition, some observers believed that government subsidies to the press, beginning in 1979, threatened to compromise true freedom of the press.
The early post-Franco years witnessed a proliferation of newspapers and magazines, although many of these were short lived. The enthusiasm for publishing was not matched by a commensurate eagerness for reading on the part of the populace. In part because of the prolonged repression of the dictatorship, Spaniards had lost the habit of reading newspapers. Whereas about 2,000 newspapers had appeared daily during the Second Republic, in the 1980s there were only 130. This drastically reduced figure was an indication of the population's distrust of the press, although the growth of radio and television newscasts was also a factor. Spain's per capita newspaper circulation was far below that of most West European countries, and in the late 1980s less than 10 percent of the population regularly bought a daily newspaper.
By all accounts, the most influential newspaper was El Pais, founded in 1976. It played a critical role in guiding the formation of opinion in the early days of Spanish democracy. The paper maintained a liberal, factually objective viewpoint, and it appealed primarily to well-educated citizens. In the mid1980s , it was the country's largest daily newspaper, with a circulation of 350,000 daily and 590,000 on Sundays.
The much older ABC was a conservative-monarchist newspaper. Founded in 1905, it enjoyed wide popularity during the Franco years, but its circulation declined after 1975. El Alcazar represented ultra-right wing opposition to democratic policies. Many of its articles pertained to the armed forces, because it appealed to a sector of society still nostalgic for Francoism. The oldest continuously published newspaper in Spain was La Vanguardia, founded in 1881 and published in Barcelona. Until the early 1980s, this conservative paper had the largest circulation in the country.
Other major daily newspapers included the Catholic rightist Ya, which strongly defended the church's position on such issues as divorce and abortion, and Diario 16, which began publication in 1975 as a spinoff of the respected weekly, Cambio 16. Marca was a popular daily newspaper, devoted exclusively to sports news. Founded in the early days of the Franco regime, it enjoyed immense popularity between 1940 and 1970, primarily because sports coverage was the only uncensored news permitted by the government. There were also a number of important regional newspapers in Catalonia (Avui) and in the Basque Country (Deia in Bilbao and Egin in San Sebastian) that published, at least partly, in the respective regional language; the circulation of each usually ran between 40,000 and 50,000 daily.
One large news agency, EFE, dominated the distribution of news. This national agency, which the government owned and subsidized, was controlled by the Ministry of Transportation, Tourism, and Communications. The government frequently exercised its prerogative of appointing EFE directors. At the same time, financial aid from the state contributed to the significant growth of the agency. Observers questioned the appropriateness of newspapers' receiving their information from an agency so closely linked with the government.
In addition to newspapers, Spain had a large number of weekly and monthly periodicals that filled in the gaps in newspaper coverage. Two leading weeklies specialized in political reporting: Cambio 16, founded in 1972; and its more recent, somewhat sensationalist rival, Tiempo. Other periodicals for the most part concentrated on entertainment, social events, sports, and television. One of the most popular magazines in Spain, Interviu, combined unrestrained political reporting with equally uninhibited photography. This blending of political and sexual liberation proved highly attractive to Spanish readers, after Franco's repressive policies in both these areas. The best-selling magazine in Spain was the weekly television review Tele-Indiscreta, the large circulation of which indicated the immense popularity of television throughout the country.
Radio and Television
Spain was served by four major radio networks in the late 1980s: Radio Nacional Espanola (RNE), controlled by the government; Radio Cadena Espanola (RCE), which consisted of stations formerly owned by Francoist groups; Cadena de Ondas Populares Espanolas (COPE), a network supported by the Roman Catholic Church; and Sociedad Espanola de Radiodifusion (SER), the largest and most popular at the commercial networks.
The 1975 Geneva Conference restricted the number of networks that might operate on the medium wave in each country. In Spain, the four major networks plus one Catalan station broadcasted on the medium wave as well as on frequency modulation (FM). A number of new stations and networks began broadcasting on FM after the government redistributed the franchises in 1982. The quality and the popularity of this FM programming had increased to such an extent, that in the mid-1980s, more Spaniards were listening to FM than to medium wave. In 1986 there were approximately 10.8 million radio receivers in the country.
Radio broadcasting was regulated by the General Bureau for Radio Broadcasting and Television (Direccion General de Radiodifusion y Television). In October 1977, the government relinquished its monopoly on radio news dissemination and declared that it would no longer require the country's nonstate radio stations to broadcast government news bulletins. News coverage became both faster and better after the end of RNE's monopoly, as was evidenced dramatically during the February 1981 coup attempt, when radio correspondents provided vivid and timely descriptions of the night's events to a worried population, in a manner that neither the slower print media nor state-run television could match.
Of the various forms of communications media, television occupied a unique position in the shaping of Spanish social values and institutions. Spaniards received a relatively small proportion of their news and information from the print media, and they spent more time watching television than the people of any other country in Western Europe except Britain. Even most of the poorest homes had television sets, which numbered approximately 10 million in 1986.
Television was controlled by a state monopoly, RadioTelevision Espanola (RTVE), the responsibility for which was shuffled from one ministry to another in the 1970s and the 1980s. Television as well as radio continued to be subject to intense government scrutiny and censorship, through the early years of the post-Franco era, and the Francoist notion of television as an arm of government did not end with Franco's death. As part of agreements stemming from the Moncloa Pacts, a governing body was established to guarantee RTVE's objectivity. This body, called the Administrative Council, was to consist of six members elected by the Congress of Deputies in order to ensure that it would reflect the political composition of the Cortes. This council was less than vigilant in its watchdog role, however, and during the late 1970s and the 1980s there were many cases of political and financial corruption as well as mismanagement on the part of RTVE.
Spain had two major television channels: one ultrahigh frequency (UHF); and the other, very high frequency (VHF). They operated under the country's only television network, Television Espanola (TVE), which in turn was under the jurisdiction of the RTVE. In the 1980s, several autonomous governments obtained permission to build television transmission facilities for broadcasting in their regional languages.
The most noteworthy development regarding television in the late 1980s was the passage of a bill in April 1986 which, when carried out, will end the state monopoly on television by allowing three new private television channels to operate under the supervision of an independent broadcasting authority. The bill included restrictions to prevent private investors from gaining a monopoly control of a station, and it also established requirements about programming. The bill became law on April 4, 1987, and observers noted that the introduction of commercial television might lead to an improvement in the rather erratic programming of Spanish television.
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