Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am here to explain the situation of the Catalan-speaking media in my country. The Valencian Country is 200 km South of Barcelona and 200 East of Madrid. It is about 400 km long and has about 6 milion inhabitants. The Capital is Valencia, a city in which about one milion people live.
The Catalan-speaking territory extends by almost 800 km and comprises a population of about 13 milion. It is divided into seven territories in Andorra, Spain, France and Italy.
Demographicaly, Catalan is the seventh European Union language. With more speakers than Finnish or Danish, it is comparable to Swedish, Greek and Portuguese in Europe. It could be said that rather than a minority language it is a minorised language.
Catalan Language, also known as Valencian Language, is fully official and legally considered as the own Language of Valencian people. More than 30 rulings from the Spanish Supreme Court support the fact that Valencian as well as Catalan are valid names for the language we speak, which is one of the languages protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by Spain in 2001.
The Spanish Constitution imposes the obligation to respect and protect linguistic pluralism. Although, and in spite that almost one out of four Spanish citizens live in a Catalan-speaking region, Catalan is significantly underrepresented in the mass media, which -in all of the Catalan-speaking territories- are mostly in Spanish.
The situation is particularly serious in the Valencian Country. As an example, in Valencia city and its metropolitan area, there are 38 TV channels in Spanish and only 2.3 in Catalan. The 0.3-one is the public TV Channel Canal 9. Although it is legally defined as a Valencian-speaking television, it broadcasts more than seventy per cent in Spanish. This 70% includes all the movies and advertising. On the other side, the 30% is mostly composed by bilingual programs. In sports, for example, there is always a Catalan speaker conducting the transmission, accompanied by an expert who is –in every single case- a Spanish-speaker. It is exactly as though there were no Catalan-speaking experts available for any sports event.
Until February, 2011, TV repeaters owned by Acció Cultural permitted the reception of four more TV Channels in our mother tongue. Thus, we had 38 TV channels in Spanish; 6 in Catalan and 1 in Spanish and Catalan. It was not –by no means- a good balance but again it was quite better than the one we enjoy right now.
The whole situation of Catalan language in the Valencia Community is seriously compromised. Thousands of children are not allowed to receive education at school in their own mother language in spite of the fact that their families are actually demanding it. Moreover, right now the Regional Government is implementing new threats against this fundamental right and trying to to put a definitive stop into the possibility of getting an integral education in Catalan.
The political leaders of the ruling Spanish parties practically do not use Catalan in their official appearances. Movies cannot be viewed in our own language, neither in the theatres nor on TV channels and it is not uncommon to know about cases of citizens harassed by policemen or judges at court for having addressed them in their mother tongue.
As a consequence, Catalan is allowed only a very reduced space in social life.
I’m here representing Acció Cultural del País Valencià, a nonprofit association whose main goal is the protection, study and defense of the Valencian people’s language and culture. Since 1971 and with more than 7.000 members, we have promoted a lot of campaigns and initiatives aimed to rectify this unfair situation, mainly reached during the 40 years of Franco’s dictatorship and not significantly changed through the Spanish democracy period.
In 1985 we started to install TV repeaters, financed by the sale of aid-bonds, to carry out Catalan-speaking TV channels to the valencian population. TV3 was the only TV Channel broadcasted in our language at that moment. Canal 9, the public TV of our community, first appeared in 1989. Acció Cultural also wanted and supported it. Especially because, as established in its by-laws, Canal 9 was –theoretically- created with the aim to compensate for the lack of media in our language. Regretfully, as I said before, Canal 9 is nowadays a mostly Spanish-speaking TV which just adds to the other 38 channels broadcasting in this same language.
From 1989 to 2011, both broadcasters peacefully coexisted while some new TV channels in Catalan were being incorporated by Catalan TV. Some of them were addressed to the youngest population and, during all those years, thousands of valencian children have been able to watch cartoons in their own mother tongue, thanks to the TV signal received by the repeaters owned by Acció Cultural.
In 2007, a new Mass Media law was approved by the conservative majority of the Valencian Parliament. Outside the Government, this law has been interpreted as a law specifically designed to interfere with the freedom to receive Catalan-spaeking TV channels. In fact, its constitutionality has been judicially challenged by the Spanish Prime Minister Office.
With this new instrument, disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Acció Cultural by the Regional Government. Although the frequency-band used by Acció Cultural belongs to Spain and not to the Regions, the Spanish government has been very passive, claiming all the time that this conflict should be solved by means of an agreement between Catalan and Valencian autonomous communities. But, on the valencian side, there is no will to look for a solution and so they never came to an agreement. Instead, heavy penalties of 800,000€ have been charged to a non-profit association. We have been treated as if we were a large private broadcaster, which is not the case: we are just a cultural association and we took no benefit from TV broadcasting. Thus, Acció Cultural has been forced to close the repeaters and Catalan TV cannot be watched anymore in the Valencian Country.
Unfortunately, it has to be said that the Popular Party ruling the Valencian Government is hugely affected by corruption. The charges for bribery against the President led the New York Times to signal him -Mr. Francisco Camps- as an example of political corruption in Europe. It is curious–if not completely anomalous- that in the Public Valencia TV, the fact that President Camps has been taken to court as a defendant in a case as serious as bribery, has not yet been considered worthy of any mention. For our public TV, President Camps is currently not accused in any alleged crime.
It is in this context that the severe measures against Catalan TV reception have been enforced. The Regional government decided to put a stop into Catalan TV broadcasting in the Valencia Region by means of the yet mentioned financial penalties against a cultural association.
Someone may have thought that it was probably intended to divert public attention from the seriousness of the allegations faced by the regional government, but –in any case- it has left milions of people without access to TV channels spoken in their own mother and official language.
Recently, Acció Cultural has promoted the legislative initiative called “Television Without Borders” (Television Sans Frontières). This initiative has got a wide institutional as well as popular support. More than six hundred and five thousand valid signatures have been provided to the Spanish Parliament which –nevertheless- has not given a lot of facilities in order to get it discussed and eventually approved. This legislative initiative is completely inside the scope of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and aims to ensure the freedom of reception of every broadcastings made in one of the protected languages.
It would allow a more balanced situation for the speakers of those languages who –nowadays- have an extraordinarily reduced access to mass media in their own language, Catalan.
Regretfully, neither the Regional government of Valencia nor the Spanish one seem to be truly interested in ensuring linguistic rights. And this is the reason why we would like to ask the European Community to intervene. The European Community should take the necessary measures in order to solve a very unfair and anomalous situation. Milions of Catalan-speakers are not allowed to access mass media in their mother tongue that –paradoxically- is a right official language in the territory they are living. We do consider that it is a shame that such an arbitrarity is still found in the Europe of the Twenty-First Century.
Thank you very much for your attention, Ladies and Gentlemen. I’m open to your questions and comments.