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The Spectacle of Democracy

The Spectacle of Democracy: Spanish Television, Nationalism, and Political Transition

Richard Maxwell
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Spectacle of Democracy
    Book Description:

    "A brilliant book on the political economy of global television. It uses a richly detailed analysis of Spain's cultural, political, and economic history as a case study for theorizing the role of television in redefining regional and national identity. . . ." --Marsha Kinder, author of Blood Cinema

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8553-0
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface: Who’s Speaking?
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Introduction: The Decline of National Mass Media?
    (pp. xix-xxxviii)

    Three areas of social transition in Spain mark out the parameters of this book: the democratization of political institutions, the decentralization of political authority, and the transformation of the national model of television. The most prominent area examined here is the third. This is a book about the decline of the territorial imperative of the media system that democratic Spain inherited from the fascist dictatorship — an imperative that developed from a nationalist, centralist, monocultural perspective. It is also about the genesis of a new territorial imperative of the media that replaced the old — one that is transnationalist, regionalist, and multicultural....

  7. Part I Political Transitions, Media Transitions

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      Scholars of recent Spanish history tend to agree on at least two of the key conditions that greeted the transitions of media and politics in democratic Spain. The first we can call, after Poulantzas, the crisis of the dictatorship. The second is the reemergence in 1976 of strong regionalist projects of the socalled historic nationalities of Spain: the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians. In addition, no account of the social conditions in transitional Spain would be complete without identifying the place of Spain in the international economy.

      The crisis of the dictatorship began long before the death of General Franco with...

    • 1 The Death of the Dictator and the Twilight of National Mass Media
      (pp. 3-11)

      In 1975, a joke on the American television comedy programSaturday Night Livereminded viewers that the former dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, was “still dead.” The macabre joke referred to Franco’s extended agony before dying. For months, the world had watched as the eightythree-year-old dictator was returned repeatedly from near death, surviving dangerous surgical operations and living beyond medical expectations with the help of machines.

      When he finally passed away on November 20, 1975, the public seemed uncertain, as if reassurances that he would stay dead were needed.Saturday Night Live’sjoke expressed both an emotional release and an...

    • 2 The Regional Question
      (pp. 12-22)

      A key element of the transition to democracy in Spain can be understood by analyzing the genesis and structure of the political economy of regionalization. Regionalism emerged as a direct response to the spatial hierarchy, the regionalization, created by centralism in Spain. This regionalized hierarchy privileged the center politically and constrained the regions economically — especially the more dynamic capitalist regions of Spain, Catalonia, and the Basque Country. The tension between centralism and regionalism was decisive in shaping the organization, and orientation, of Spanish radio and television throughout the twentieth century. This chapter digresses from the question of media regionalization to...

    • 3 Transnational Phenomena in Spanish Media
      (pp. 23-30)

      This brief chapter has one simple goal: to describe the ties of Spanish media to the wider international economy. Two areas need to be introduced: technological dependence and multinational advertising. Spain does not control its own technological destiny, and most of the large advertising agencies are in the hands of the British and American firms. The period examined here precedes the multiplication of TV channels, though later chapters will have occasion to explain the importance of these two points of structural dependence as commercial media promoters and regional authorities push for new channels.

      The well-known litany about our contemporary political...

  8. Part II The Politics of Privatization

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 31-32)

      Bertolt Brecht once conjectured that from the perspective of a tennis ball in play the laws of physics must not make any sense—objective conditions are experienced as chaos. From the point of view of official politics of the Spanish transition, very little of what was happening must have made sense. With proverbial hindsight an analysis should produce a clear image of the objective forces that set political decisions and actions in motion during the transition. For this reason, writing about the past, and about political situations in which historical actors found themselves, is always a test of the clarity...

    • 4 It’s Private: Policymaking for Television in Spain, 1977–82
      (pp. 33-39)

      With only a relative majority through two elections, the Union of the Democratic Center (UCD) presided over the Spanish government until 1982, when this party finally disintegrated. Throughout its tenure it was forced to manage the state through the negotiated break with the past. Basically, theruptura pactadadefined the government’s actions on three levels: the government had to minimize its own internal battles to keep a very loosely formed alliance of liberals, Christian Democrats, and Social Democrats from collapsing; it had to regulate the schedule of reforms in such a way to avoid aggravating the remaining Francoist institutions, especially...

    • 5 Unlikely Hegemony, Unfinished Party—UCD in Crisis
      (pp. 40-47)

      By 1980 Adolfo Suárez could no longer control the deterioration of the UCD alliance. He stepped down as president of Spain on January 29, 1981, under conditions that were not clear at the time.¹ The great personal strain associated with the disintegration of the UCD coalition was one likely reason for his resignation. Under Suárez, the party had won two general elections, and, although the historical role he played is often exaggerated, Suárez had achieved some rather astounding reforms.

      Adolfo Suárez was virtually alone in getting real consensus for reform among continuists and reformists, using the Francoist constitution and legal...

    • 6 Political Failure, Broken Rules, and the Symbolic Advance of Private TV
      (pp. 48-58)

      Following the example of the Italian Christian Democrats who proposed private TV as the alternative in Italy in the mid-1970s, a faction within the UCD used the bill as a preemptive tactic to gain control over future channels. The tactic, as Costa argues, was meant to subvert reform of the public service system in order to undermine the opposition.¹ The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) had gained in the polls with every failure of the UCD, and the internal crisis of the ruling party helped even more to further the socialist alternative. The PSOE was placed to make considerable gains...

    • 7 The PSOE: New Rhetoric, New Pressures, and New Strategies for Media Reform
      (pp. 59-65)

      At first, the new government established after the October 1982 elections greeted the issue of television reform with silence. For obvious reasons, media policy was a far less pressing concern than the transference of power to the socialists, their creation of a cabinet of ministers, and the shuffle of appointments at the subministerial level. In response to the silence, however, another lawsuit was filed with the constitutional tribunal, which reached a decision in December 1982 that reiterated its previous verdict in March of that year.

      The PSOE did not begin to articulate a position on private TV until the first...

    • 8 For the Few: The Socialist Revival of Expectation for Private TV
      (pp. 66-71)

      The year 1984 was characterized by great expectations for private TV. In the press, the polity, and among businesses eager to advertise their wares, every mention of new commercial television channels generated hopeful signs that new opportunities for investment were around the corner. Also, in 1984 the PSOE clarified its position on television policy, reversing unabashedly its opposition to private TV.

      Boosterism for private media competition often received support from highly publicized visits of international luminaries, including Walter Cronkite, who declared in sage tones that “without competition a government can suppress the news.”¹ Roy Gibson, former director general of the...

    • 9 Social Democracy, Modernization, and Corporatism in Action
      (pp. 72-81)

      The events of 1984, notably the crystallization of the PSOE policy and the schedule for reform of the communications system, made 1985 the potential inaugural year for private TV in Spain. All pieces appeared to be in place for a radical restructuring of the media — yet the process of policymaking continued at a slow pace. Apart from the business of creating a cohesive and widely entrenched political class within the transitional state, the PSOE gave itself the task of integrating the communications infrastructure in the Ley de Ordenación de las Comunicaciones (LOC). These two problems combined to challenge the socialist...

    • 10 Politics of Diminishing Returns
      (pp. 82-89)

      In May 1985, the Spanish government admitted that lingering suspicions about its plans for private TV were true. There was no explicit plan to license private TV within the quasi-confidential draft of LOC.¹ A familiar legal problem recalling the 1982 decision of the constitutional tribunal kept LOC split between technical issues and cultural policy. Felipe González confessed that private TV was not effectively a part of LOC, which mostly addressed the elimination of state control and furnished only a few generic statements on private ownership. He did make clear at this time, however, that a separate law was going to...

    • 11 Private TV Now and Forever
      (pp. 90-100)

      It can be argued that political opportunism is pursued with a clear conscience as long as what’s at stake is winning elections.¹ But short-term gains are often won at the expense of the long-term social effects. The rhetorical claims for fast-track reform in Spanish media verged on the aphoristic: the glass was neither half full nor half empty, just too big. Can this banner pragmatism hold true when it signifies the reduction of participation in the democratic process? Can the field of participation in cultural policy ever be too big when a society is deciding on issues that shape its...

  9. Part III The Geography of Television in Spain

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 101-102)

      In a study conducted for the Barcelona County Council in 1988, the Catalan media sociologists Miquel de Moragas and María Corominas Piulats argued that it was a mistake for the New World Information and Communication Order to be defined primarily in terms of the nation-state. They said such definitions were inadequate given the existence of “minority nations or cultures which lack the infrastructure of a state on which to organize their communication policies.”¹ This observation about small nations issues a warrant to investigate the local dynamics of cultural development within the modern nation-state. It asks international media research to readjust...

    • 12 Electronic Regions of Spain
      (pp. 103-112)

      Experiments in radiowave communication started early in the twentieth century, and in 1921 Radio Castilla, a venture of the Compañía Ibérica de Telecomunicación, began regular broadcasts of concerts from the Royal Theater of Madrid after receiving special authorization from the government.¹ The Spanish government had created legislation in 1908 to establish state control over all broadcast technology. A royal decree of January of that year gave the central state the right to establish and exploit “all systems and apparatuses related to the so-called Hertzian telegraph, ethereal telegraph, radiotelegraph, and other similar procedures that are already invented orthat will be...

    • 13 In the Region of Electronic and Political Conflicts
      (pp. 113-121)

      Before the technical plan of the private TV law was enacted, the Basque, Catalan, and Galician communities had taken over a place within the electronic regions of Spain. These electronic regions became a territory lost to the central administration—or, at least when entered, a place of disrespect and harassment for the government of Madrid. With many of its calls going unanswered, management from the center was often frustrated by the resistance of regional broadcasters. In the summer of 1988, the chief technician in charge of monitoring frequency use in Spain put it this way: “We know which frequencies we’ve...

    • 14 The Distant Space of Political Economy
      (pp. 122-135)

      Regionalist television was decidedly anticentralist and anti-Francoist, but not anti-imperialist in the supranational sense. Nor, it might be argued, was it anti-imperialist in an infranational sense, although in respect to the political regions, containment of expansion has been highly regulated. Nonetheless, once the demands for territorialized cultural sovereignty were given substance as a commercial cultural institution, regionalism became part of a system that out of necessity seeks to trespass sovereign cultural borders (of the political region).

      The extent of electronic trespass may have varied among the television projects, but the imperative to maximize audiences does not. In practice, then, a...

  10. Conclusion: The End of National Mass Media?
    (pp. 136-154)

    In February 1992, as part of the alignment of the Spanish economy with the economic and monetary union of the European Community, the Spanish government lifted all restrictions on capital movements in and out of its territory. In March the Spanish government approved the Convergence Program, which stipulated for a four-year period strict fiscal monetary controls, slower wage increases, and a brutally stratified labor contract system (also called labor flexibility), and stronger incentives for market competition. Interest rates were already among the highest in Europe, and they continued to rise monthly in small increments (reaching as high as 18 percent...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 155-176)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-188)
  13. Index
    (pp. 189-197)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-198)