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Radio and Television

Spain was served by four major radio networks in the late 1980s: Radio Nacional Espanola (RNE), controlled by the government; Radio Cadena Espanola (RCE), which consisted of stations formerly owned by Francoist groups; Cadena de Ondas Populares Espanolas (COPE), a network supported by the Roman Catholic Church; and Sociedad Espanola de Radiodifusion (SER), the largest and most popular at the commercial networks.

The 1975 Geneva Conference restricted the number of networks that might operate on the medium wave in each country. In Spain, the four major networks plus one Catalan station broadcasted on the medium wave as well as on frequency modulation (FM). A number of new stations and networks began broadcasting on FM after the government redistributed the franchises in 1982. The quality and the popularity of this FM programming had increased to such an extent, that in the mid-1980s, more Spaniards were listening to FM than to medium wave. In 1986 there were approximately 10.8 million radio receivers in the country.

Radio broadcasting was regulated by the General Bureau for Radio Broadcasting and Television (Direccion General de Radiodifusion y Television). In October 1977, the government relinquished its monopoly on radio news dissemination and declared that it would no longer require the country's nonstate radio stations to broadcast government news bulletins. News coverage became both faster and better after the end of RNE's monopoly, as was evidenced dramatically during the February 1981 coup attempt, when radio correspondents provided vivid and timely descriptions of the night's events to a worried population, in a manner that neither the slower print media nor state-run television could match.

Of the various forms of communications media, television occupied a unique position in the shaping of Spanish social values and institutions. Spaniards received a relatively small proportion of their news and information from the print media, and they spent more time watching television than the people of any other country in Western Europe except Britain. Even most of the poorest homes had television sets, which numbered approximately 10 million in 1986.

Television was controlled by a state monopoly, RadioTelevision Espanola (RTVE), the responsibility for which was shuffled from one ministry to another in the 1970s and the 1980s. Television as well as radio continued to be subject to intense government scrutiny and censorship, through the early years of the post-Franco era, and the Francoist notion of television as an arm of government did not end with Franco's death. As part of agreements stemming from the Moncloa Pacts, a governing body was established to guarantee RTVE's objectivity (see Transition to Democracy , ch. 1). This body, called the Administrative Council, was to consist of six members elected by the Congress of Deputies in order to ensure that it would reflect the political composition of the Cortes. This council was less than vigilant in its watchdog role, however, and during the late 1970s and the 1980s there were many cases of political and financial corruption as well as mismanagement on the part of RTVE.

Spain had two major television channels: one ultrahigh frequency (UHF); and the other, very high frequency (VHF). They operated under the country's only television network, Television Espanola (TVE), which in turn was under the jurisdiction of the RTVE. In the 1980s, several autonomous governments obtained permission to build television transmission facilities for broadcasting in their regional languages.

The most noteworthy development regarding television in the late 1980s was the passage of a bill in April 1986 which, when carried out, will end the state monopoly on television by allowing three new private television channels to operate under the supervision of an independent broadcasting authority. The bill included restrictions to prevent private investors from gaining a monopoly control of a station, and it also established requirements about programming. The bill became law on April 4, 1987, and observers noted that the introduction of commercial television might lead to an improvement in the rather erratic programming of Spanish television.

Data as of December 1988

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Spain Table of Contents