Basque television

Basque television
   There are two Basque television stations, both belonging to the publicly owned Euskal Telebista (Basque Television). The first broadcasts exclusively in Basque, and the second in Spanish. They are now both well established as irreplaceable elements of contemporary Basque culture. Euskal Telebista (ETB) was the first television company in Spain to be set up outside the structures of the national Spanish Broadcasting Corporation, TVE (see also television), and effectively brought to an end the latter's nationwide monopoly. The first channel, ETB1, began broadcasting on 31 December 1982 without authorization from central government, a situation which led to considerable tension between Euskadi and Madrid. Its legal situation was not regularized until a year later in December 1983, along with that of the other emergent autonomous channels. Its programming was all in Basque, except for the news, which was in Spanish. The second channel, ETB2, came on stream on 31 May 1986 and broadcasts only in Spanish. This differentiates Basque television fundamentally from the other major autonomous broadcaster, Catalan television, both of whose channels broadcast exclusively in Catalan. In fact, the situation for Basque television has been much more problematic than for its Catalan counterpart. While Catalan continues to be the majority language of Catalonia, is used throughout public administration and education, and is also relatively easy to learn for immigrants from other parts of Spain, Basque has not recovered to anything like the same extent from the repression of the Franco dictatorship, during which it was banned from all public use. Despite considerable official efforts to recover the lost ground— including the setting up of Basque language-medium schools— Basque is still understood only by a minority of the population. Such a situation is bound to have significant consequences for any media policy, whether in relation to print or electronic media. Basque television has suffered considerably as a result. Despite concentrating on what are regarded as high-demand areas of television viewing—in particular sport (ETB provided its own coverage of the Barcelona Olympic Games, for example, concentrating on the performance of Basque sportsmen and women), but also children's programmes and cultural programmes—ETB has had difficulty consolidating the kind of audiences which would justify it commercially as well as politically. Given the relatively slow rate of recovery of the Basque language within Basque society in general, there seems little chance of a lasting solution to this problem.
   A development which does seem to offer some hope for the future, however, has been the development of a Basque soap opera. Entitled Goenkale (Up the Street), it is in fact produced by an independent production company, Pausoka, for ETB1. Its success is undeniable, and it has become a part of everyday conversation in Euskadi, following a pattern already established by the successful Catalan soaps. It has also had a powerfully stimulating effect on Basque audiovisual production in general, employing almost 200 people and gaining the respect of television stations outside Euskadi.
   HUGH O'DONNELL

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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