Political control and journalist protests in Spanish public media in electoral campaigns: A decade of conflict
For thirteen consecutive years, Catalan public broadcasting journalists have protested against the so-called coverage quotas established by Spanish electoral regulations. According to those regulations, during election campaigns, broadcasters are required to use a calculated number related to the proportion of votes cast in the previous election to determine the amount of broadcast time they allot to each party. Journalists have repeatedly and publicly complained about the quotas, while simultaneously explaining the effects of the quotas to the audience and not crediting authorship of this news. This paper undertakes an in-depth analysis of the case and its historical roots from different angles: the protests, the journalists’ professional roles, the political parties’ strategies, the roles of the regulatory boards and the initiatives taken by some professional organizations and institutions. The theoretical framework focuses on the mistrust between the political class and journalists in the context of a mediatized conflict with ethical implications. The methodology includes extensive document examination, news content analysis and interviews. The results indicate that the Spanish political class has deemed the performance of the Catalan public broadcaster as tending to equate political information with electoral spots controlled by parties. The consequence of this has been an enduring conflict between politicians and Catalan journalists that distances citizens from both of them.
Keywords: Spanish public media, media conflict, journalistic-political conflict, politics and ethics in media.