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TV REVIEW

An unprecedented misrepresentation of the Barcelona march on Spain’s public TV

Catalonia’s public broadcaster, TV3, was tasked with providing international networks with live footage of the Barcelona demonstration against terrorism. For instance, Spain’s La Sexta (with its own touch here and there) and Telecinco both used it. Given the wealth of experience gained through its coverage of the annual marches on Catalonia’s National Day, TV3’s production was entirely professional in that it showed what was going on in the streets of Barcelona, foregrounding the voice of the people, both in terms of the crowds as well as the way they expressed themselves. Banners, chants, slogans, placards and a range of flag types were shown. However, the Spanish public network’s coverage of the event was a farce that set a new low in the history of audiovisual misrepresentation. At the start, it quickly became apparent that TVE did not trust TV3’s broadcast. Rather than personalising the feed, they carried out a parallel production obsessed with concealing anything objectionable and focusing on the political authorities in attendance. After the first shouts and boos directed at Rajoy and his ministers, TVE also revealed that they were carefully monitoring the audio feed. When the Spanish king eventually arrived, booing and shouting were clearly audible on TV3, whereas they only lasted a few seconds on TVE before someone turned off all ambient sound.

Because Catalan separatist flags were in the majority at the head of the march, TVE patched in its own camera feeds, which avoided wide-angle shots that would have shown the pro-independence flags. TVE’s cameras were also placed somewhat lower than TV3’s, which provided less depth of field and their viewers missed the crowd’s banners and placards.

TVE kept alternating images of the king’s front row, which included the political leaders, with aerial shots from a helicopter. Inevitably, the latter only showed blurry banners and flags due to the height. If you switched back and forth from TV3 to TVE, you could see that whenever TV3’s broadcast showed an “estelada” flag, a slogan against Rajoy’s policies or the king, TVE quickly switched to a different, more neutral shot. The massive banner accusing the king of being involved in arms dealing, which could be seen from above, did not exist on TVE.

One of the most moving moments, which only TV3 showed, was a live broadcast from Ripoll where the grief-stricken sister of two of the terrorists, Hafida Oukabir, read a manifesto in support of peaceful coexistence.

TVE’s obsession with showcasing the political leaders eventually cost them. When the king was shown bidding farewell to the other vips, we could see a severe-looking Míriam Hatibi, the spokesperson for Fundació Ibn Battuta, giving the monarch a long earful. I would be interesting to know what her words were. Once the king had left, TVE ended its special programme.

The stark, shocking contrast between TV3 and TVE’s audiovisual account of the event also reveals a very different understanding of the value that each network attached to the march in Barcelona city. While TV3’s approach suggests a social interpretation of the public’s response, the misrepresentation and visual narrative of TVE merely sends an authoritarian political message, one that is fearful of Catalonia’s social reality.

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