Spanish government urged to stop blocking public broadcasting reform
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Spanish government to stop blocking
reforms at the state-owned national radio and TV broadcaster RTVE that are designed to
end its pro-government bias. A government that respects the rule of law should guarantee
the editorial freedom of public broadcast journalists, RSF says.
RTVE presenters, reporters, correspondents and even guests have been dressed in black for on-screen appearances every Friday for the past month to protest against what they call the “manipulation” of RTVE’s news coverage by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party (PP), which they say is blocking the reforms.
An internal “Consejo de Informativos” (News Council) formed by RTVE’s journalists with the aim of monitoring balance, objectivity and professional standards in its news coverage publishes regular reports about the bias it detects in RTVE’s news programmes. It accuses the management of conniving with the PP and of recruiting pro-PP journalists, and says this has “massively undermined RTVE’s prestige.”
After the PP won the 2011 election, it used its absolute majority in parliament to directly appoint RTVE’s president and board of governors. Subsequently, after it lost its absolute majority in December 2016, the three other biggest parties – Podemos, PSOE and Ciudadanos – had a law passed in 2017 under which the members of RTVE’s management and governing bodies should be chosen on the basis of merit, by means of competitive examination.
However, the PP minority government has managed to hold up the new law’s implementation.
“Until now, we refrained from expressing a view on any party’s responsibility in the progress of RTVE’s reforms,” said Alejandro Caballero, the journalist who heads the RTVE News Council. “But we now denounce the Popular Party’s role and accuse it of sabotaging the renewal process at Spanish public radio and television. This is all the more serious because of the elections in a few months’ time and the risk of the impact this could have on RTVE content.”
The RTVE News Council has referred the issue to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, whose chair, Cecilia Wikström, has said she is “worried by this situation.” The committee’s members have written to Prime Minister Rajoy “requesting an explanation.”
“We share the concerns expressed by the European Parliament and we urge the Spanish government to stop blocking the reforms at RTVE,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “In our view, a democratic government should take pride in protecting public media independence, which is an essential safeguard for a pluralistic political system and enables all political parties to be heard.”