Catalan television

Catalan television
   There are two Catalan-language television channels broadcasting from Barcelona, TV3 and Canal 33, both belonging to the publicly owned Corporació Catalana de Radio i Televisió (Catalan Radio and Television Corporation). Both have proved highly successful in their own terms, with TV3 attracting the larger audiences, and Catalan-language television has now become a fundamental element of Catalan culture in general.
   Catalonia's first Catalan-language television channel, TV3, also known as Televisió de Catalunya (Catalan Television), first went on air in an experimental broadcast on 10 September 1983, some ten months after the setting up of the first Basque television channel, and in defiance, like it, of central government, which considered its use of certain terrestrial frequencies to be illegal. But the controversies surrounding its launch were not only legal. Considerable resentment was caused in Catalonia by the then head of Spanish television, José María Calviño, when he suggested during a visit to Barcelona that Catalan television should limit itself to things Catalan, rather than attempting to become a mainstream channel with a full portfolio of programme types (and thereby entering, of course, into direct competition with Spanish national television). Catalan television picked up this particular gauntlet enthusiastically, and has never had any doubts about its vocation to become the main television station of Catalonia as a whole, offering the entire range of programmes which viewers would expect from a mainstream television channel.
   Despite the original legal difficulties, TV3"s legal situation was—like that of all the television channels of the other autonomous communities— eventually normalized towards the end of 1984, representing a considerable political victory for the communities vis-à-vis Madrid. From 5 April 1989 Catalan television, together with the other autonomous channels, has also been a member of the Federation de Organizaciones de Radio y Television Autonómicas (Federation of Autonomous Radio and Television Organizations), in an attempt to strengthen the defence of its interests and increase its ability to bid successfully for programmes on the international markets. In TV3"s first experimental broadcast, Catalans received foreign programmes dubbed into Catalan. It moved to regular broadcasting on 16 January 1984 with a weekly service of fourteen hours, increasing to thirty-five hours on 2 April. Although the process of dubbing continues (both of foreign-language productions and of productions in Spanish), TV3 has become an important source of domestic Catalan-language production, and has indeed become one of the most dynamic and forward-looking stations in Spain, opening a new complex of four buildings in 1986, and being the first station in Spain to introduce Electronic News Gathering teams and to design a corporate image.
   On 10 September 1988 a second Catalanlanguage television channel entitled Canal 33 came on air unexpectedly, much to the surprise of large sectors of Catalan society, including the Catalan parliament, which had not been informed of the decision to launch the new channel. A number of reasons explain this unexpected appearance. One was plans developed by central television, TVE, to launch a Catalan-language channel of its own in October of that year (a channel which never, in fact, got off the ground). Another was the desire to offset the imminent arrival of the new private channels which it was quite correctly felt in Catalonia would have the effect of increasing the amount of Spanish-language television available to Catalans. The sudden launch of this new channel caused immediate tensions between the Catalan and Madrid governments, resulting a few days later in Madrid jamming transmission of the new channel. This situation continued for a further two months as a solution to the legal problems was sought. In the end Canal 33 was able to begin broadcasting in January 1989. Its remit has been to concentrate on programmes of a more regional nature, thereby complementing TV3"s more broadly based mainstream programming, as well as to provide good quality cultural productions, and extensive coverage of sport.
   It would be wrong to suggest that Catalans do not watch Spanish-language television. The two most successful channels in Spain, TVE1 and Antena 3, are enjoyed by many Catalan speakers, and many of their programmes record high viewing figures in Catalonia. Nonetheless, there can be little doubt that the contribution made by the two public Catalan-language stations has been of tremendous importance to Catalonia in many ways. TV3 is a worthy rival in all respects to all the national terrestrial channels, which it regularly outperforms, even at peak times. Some of its greatest successes have been its historical series and its domestically produced culebrons (similar to British or American "soap operas", with the crucial difference that they do eventually reach a conclusion after approximately two hundred episodes). The first of these productions, Poble Nou (New Town), set in post- Olympic Barcelona, attracted vast audiences, its final episode in December 1994 being seen by over one and a half million people. It also represented TV3"s first "internal export", was subsequently dubbed into Spanish by the original actors, and was sold to the national station Antena 3 and beamed throughout Spain under the new title Los Mejores Años (The Best Years).
   However, the importance of Catalan-language television is not simply the delivery of Catalan televisual products to the Catalan population. It is seen by many in Catalonia as a key element in language normalization in Catalonia (a process to which it undoubtedly contributes in important ways) and in strengthening the notion of Catalan identity as available to all the citizens of Catalonia, whatever their origin.
   Further reading
   - Cardús, S. (1995) Política de Paper: Premsa i poder a Catalunya 1981-1992, Barcelona: Edicions La Campana (see in particular chapters 3 and 6).
   - Villagrasa, J.M. (1992) "Spain: The Emergence of Commercial Television", in A.Silj (ed.) The New Television in Europe, London: John Libbey (a wide-ranging but very readable account of changes in television throughout Spain since the early 1980s).
   HUGH O'DONNELL

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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