The Baseless Myth of the Poor, Propagandized Catalans

Photo by kelp | CC by 2.0

One of the staple talking points of Spanish unionists is that the poor people of Catalonia live trapped in a information bubble that does not allow them to hear or see anything that is not nationalist propaganda, a propaganda, they say, is designed to promote a hatred of Spain.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it?  But are things really as centralists constantly suggest they are?

As anyone who has lived in Catalonia knows Spanish (Castilian)-language media, including 5 state run TV channels and another 5 state-run radio stations are widely available and widely watched there.

This is in addition to whole host of privately held Spanish language outlets in these two pre-eminent realms of electronic communication.

On the Catalan side of things there is one Catalan government-run broadcaster with 5 TV channels only two of which  (TV 3 ands Canal 33) have anything more than splinter audiences as well as a government-run Catalan radio network with a similar array of options.

There is also small number of number small Catalan TV stations either supported by local municipal governments or local private sources.

Commercial radio is fairly well-divided between the two languages.

In the print media, the Spanish language press marked by decidedly non-independentist views has long been dominant in Catalonia. All major Castilian language, Spanish national newspapers are sold there in kiosks.

The local Goliath is the center-right and non-independentist La Vanguardia, which after nearly a century and a half as a Spanish-only paper began publishing bilingually (the reader can choose which version of the same content he or she wants to read) only in 2011 as the independentist movement began to gain traction.  It’s editorial line, however, has not changed

El periódico, also non-independentist in its editorial line, is also published bilingually.

In the case of both dailies, the Castilian version outsells the Catalan one.

The only newspapers published in Catalan available in print versions in Barcelona are El Punt/Avui (founded in 1976) and Ara (founded 2010) both of which could be said, at least lately, to be generally supportive of independence.  Another player in the Catalan-language camp is the online-only Vilawebwhich has a firm pro-independentist line.

Taken together, however, the combined readership of these three Catalan-language and generally pro-independence papers is dwarfed by the combined readership of the non-independentist, Castilian language and/or bilingual dailies.

We can thus speak of a Catalan media landscape in which the press that is supposedly filling the heads of the citizenry with groundless hatred toward Spain is substantially outgunned by outlets with primarily Spanish language audiences and decidedly unionist editorial lines.

How does this compare with things in the other areas of the state whose media (with the possible exception of the Basque Country)  is overwhelming sourced from Madrid-based Spanish language sources?

There (with the exceptions of the Blearic Island and Valencia) , we find no Catalan language electronic media at all.

Why?

Because the Autonomous Community of Madrid, which has long been dominated by the PP and has the power to either permit or ban its presence there, has decided to not make it available to the citizenry of the community. The vast majority of Spain’s other non-bilingual autonomous communities have essentially followed their lead in this matter.

Therefore the only “understanding” that most non-Catalan residents of Spain (the only exceptions being the residents Balearic Islands and the Valencian Autonomous Community) have of what goes on in the Catalan media is what their supposedly in-the-know thought leaders tell them goes on there.

Outside of logging into Catalan channels on the internet, something very few do, there is literally no way for them to “find out for themselves” what the people on Catalan media are saying or thinking.

Similarly, it is next to impossible to find Catalan-language print media in Madrid, or indeed or any other any other part (againawith the exceptions of the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Autonomous Community) of the state outside of Catalonia.

Summing up, we have a situation in which Catalans have ready access to everything Spanish-only media consumers have as well their own still quite relatively small Catalan language media, only a part of which is firmly independentist.

However, those living in virtually all the areas of Spain (again with the exception of the Balearics and Valencia) however, have only the Spanish language media at their disposal.

And yet we are told, again and again, by centralist yelpers that the people who have full access to the both Catalan and Castilian media are trapped in an airtight propaganda bubble, while the people who only get one side of the story in one language are the true paladins of open-mindedness.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released  A Citizen’s Democracy in Authoritarian Times: An American View on the Catalan Drive for Independence  (University of Valencia Press, 2018).

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