Spanish television has come a long way since first going on air in the mid-1950s. Having been closely controlled—indeed censored—by the Franco regime for the first twenty years of its existence, it shared in the freedoms of democracy from the mid-1970s on. It has also lost its status as a state monopoly with the arrival of three new national commercial stations in the late 1980s, and has been decentralized even further with the creation of a number of regional channels in different autonomous communities.
   Spain's first television channel, Televisión de España (TVE) first started broadcasting on 28 October 1956, sending only three hours of programming daily to some 600 receivers in Madrid, and being extended to Barcelona in 1958. Funding from advertising—through sponsorship of programmes—was introduced in 1958, and, alone of European countries, Spain has never levied a television licence fee. The second channel (TVE2) was introduced in September 1965, initially in Barcelona and Zaragoza, but, like the first channel (now renamed TVE1), quickly spread to cover the entire country. Like all other public institutions dealing in ideas and information—the press, cinema, the theatre— television was closely controlled by state censorship during the Franco dictatorship. This control was most obvious in news and related kinds of broadcasts, but in fact affected television output as a whole. The result was that many Spaniards took a very jaundiced view of their television service, particularly as regards its information-providing services, which were rightly seen as little more than a mouthpiece for the regime.
   Following the death of Franco in 1975 and the transition to a democratic system over the following two years, Spanish Television was given an entirely new statute in December 1978. Although this new statute stated that Spanish Television was to be subject to commercial law in its external relations, it nevertheless did not completely abolish political influence in the running of the company: the members of the board of governors were to be elected by the Spanish parliament, and the director-general was appointed for a five-year term by the government. As a result of this, widespread suspicions remained in the years following the move to democracy that Spanish Television was still essentially controlled by the party in power, and there were high levels of public mistrust, particularly in the early 1980s.
   The monopoly status of TVE could not, however, survive indefinitely. As the 1980s wore on, it was in fact undermined from two different directions. The first of these was the appearance of regional television stations in a number of Spain's autonomous communities. The first of these to go on air was the Basque television channel (ETB) in 1982, followed by the first Catalan television channel (TV3) in 1983. Subsequently, further regional stations to appear were Television de Galicia in Galicia (broadcasting in Galician) in 1985, and Canal Sur in Andalusia, Telemadrid in Madrid and Canal 9 in Valencia (broadcasting in Catalan), all in 1989. During the same period both ETB and Catalan Television went on to add second channels in their respective communities. These regional channels, which have their own programming and purchasing policies, can attract very sizeable audiences, and are often the most popular channels in their particular community, particularly where they broadcast in a language other than Spanish. In 1989 they joined together to form FORTA (the Federation of Autonomous Radio and Television Organizations) in order to increase their collective strength.
   The second major change to the Spanish television landscape was the arrival of the commercial national stations. These were Antena 3, Canal + and Tele 5, set up following a complicated bidding process in 1989, and going on air in 1990. At the outset Antena 3 was owned mostly by Spanish publishing interests, Canal + was owned jointly by the French television company of the same name, the Spanish publishing group PRISA and a number of Spanish banks, while Tele 5 was owned partly by the Italian media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (on whose own Canale 5 it was partly based), partly by the Spanish Organization for the Blind (ONCE) and by a number of other investors. Canal + is the easiest of these new channels to describe since it is—like its sister French company-a subscription channel whose programmes are encrypted, a special decoder having to be purchased in order to view them. It specializes in films, and maintains a fairly high-profile advertising campaign in Spain, encouraging members of the public to become subscribers in order to be able to view films before they become available on the other terrestrial networks. Antena 3 is a generalist channel very much in the style of TVE1 (now restyled as "La Primera", TVE2 having become "La 2"), with the usual mix of programmes ranging from news and current affairs through sport to drama, fiction, sitcoms and games of various kinds. It is now seriously challenging La Primera as the most viewed channel in Spain, and from time to time actually overtakes it.
   Tele 5—sometimes referred to as "Tele Teta" ("Boobs TV") in view of its profusion of scantily clad game hostesses—is very much in the Berlusconi Orwellian-nightmare mould, offering very down-market entertainment of various kinds, from tumultuous game shows to often highly confrontational "reality shows". Its news service is, quite literally, something of a joke in Spain, and was at one point restricted to one item of news per hour, appearing in the form of a caption with no commentary of any kind. Overall, since the mid-1950s, Spanish television has developed in the direction of offering greater choice to viewers, and reacting more and more to the demands of its audience as opposed to the wishes of those in political power.
   Further reading
   - Villagrasa, J.M. (1992) "Spain: The Emergence of Commercial Television", in A.Silj (ed.) The New Television in Europe, London: John Libbey (a wideranging but very readable account of changes in television throughout Spain since the early 1980s).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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