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Spain: new actors at the left end of the spectrum


Like the country as a whole, the Spanish media face huge challenges. Since the economic crisis of 2008, advertising revenues have been falling, print runs have been eroding and many newspapers have responded with massive layoffs. The deputy chief editor of the country's largest quality newspaper El País, Lluís Bassets, summed up the critical situation of the media in 2013 in the title of his book: El último que apague la luz. Sobre la extinción del periodismo (The last person turns out the light. Journalism is becoming extinct). He predicted that the printed daily newspaper, which to date has determined quality and opinion journalism in Spain, would disappear "much faster than expected”.

Spanish newspapers.
(© picture-alliance/dpa)


In terms of content, too, the media are facing major upheavals. Until recently there had been a consensus not to call into question the constitution of 1978 and the parliamentary monarchy with Madrid as its political centre that emerged after the long military dictatorship (1939–1975). This consensus is now eroding on all fronts. The established two-party system, whereby the conservative People's Party (Partido Popular, PP) and the Socialists (PSOE) took it in turns to form the government and opposition for many decades, is now being challenged by the left-wing party Podemos, which was born out of the protest movement of the "outraged”.

The political spectrum of the media is therefore expanding. While the conservative newspapers (ABC, El Mundo, La Razón) continue to propagate a strong position for the monarchy, the Catholic Church and the centralist state and the left-liberal media (El País, El Periódico de Catalunya) call for a secular and decentralised state, new actors are emerging at the left end of the spectrum (eldiario.es, La Marea) who are ruthlessly taking to task the outdated state structures, the scandals in the royal family and the corruption of the major parties.

The bid for independence of a number of Spanish regions - especially Catalonia - is also reflected in the press. In addition to the traditional Catalan-language newspapers such as El Punt Avui and papers like El Periódico de Catalunya, which has always published a bilingual edition, other dailies that had previously published only in Spanish are now producing a Catalan edition - La Vanguardia (since 2011) and El País (since 2014).

The already high concentration of most publishers, television channels and radio stations in the hands of a few concerns increased even further during the economic crisis. In 2010 the national television broadcasters Cuatro and Telecinco fused, two years later La Sexta and Antena 3. The diversity of opinion on public radio and television (RTVE), which are financed out of taxes, is threatened by budgetary cuts. September 2014 RTVE-Director Leopoldo González Echenique resigned in protest at the austerity measures.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 33rd place (2015)
Freedom House: 52nd place (2014)

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