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Drama at Channel 9

The Valencian government lays off staff without first apportioning blame for the bankruptcy

The management of Radio Televisió Valenciana (RTVV), the same management which has actively collaborated in the ruin of this public company, plunging it into deep debt and professional discredit, has announced a layoff program that will affect 76 percent of the staff. Since the Popular Party (PP) first won the Valencia regional elections in 1995, RTVV has tripled its staff — it now totals 1,695 employees — and multiplied by 40 its debt to more than 1.2 billion euros. During these years, with Eduardo Zaplana at the head of the regional government, followed by Francisco Camps, not only has it practiced a gross and systematic doctoring of the news — which, unfortunately is not a vice exclusive to the Valencian channel — but it has also carried out a policy of extravagant expenditure, which includes presumably fraudulent contracts now being scrutinized by the courts as part of the Gürtel corruption network.

Today’s regional premier, the PP’s Alberto Fabra, has found himself with a time bomb in his hands: an economically unviable company which has continued its constant and dramatic decline in audience ratings. It is hard to argue against the need for a mass layoff in circumstances such as these.

Yet it is unacceptable that the regional government has not investigated or apportioned blame in the matter before taking this step. It has not so much as explained the criteria of selection that the present management has used in the firings.

At the head of the firm is a Francisco Camps appointee, José López Jaraba, who in recent months has kept up a policy of exorbitant expenditure, including two important sums paid to consulting firms for designing the downsizing of the company. Fabra, meanwhile, has already enacted a charter for RTVV which enables it to privatize programs and time spots, and to go on designating, from the regional government and without inter-party consensus, the firm’s top executive.

These are some of the details indicating that the plans for RTVV and its Channel 9 are far from being what the PP recently proclaimed: a layoff plan that is necessary “to adapt to new circumstances.” Such details inflame the indignation of a staff that is going to pay dearly for this institutionalized plunder of a regional TV network created to foster the culture and language of Valencia. With more than 50 percent of its broadcasting continuing to be in Spanish, it has not even fulfilled this objective.

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