Rumors come true as Valencia TV channel sacks 1,198 of its workers

RTVV approves the mass dismissal in face of debts of 1.2 billion euros

Members of the RTVV board are pelted with objects as they leave the station's headquarters.
Members of the RTVV board are pelted with objects as they leave the station's headquarters.Manuel Bruque. (EFE)

Radio Televisió Valenciana (RTVV), the radio and television broadcaster owned by the Valencian government, has just completed a major labor adjustment plan that has left 1,198 people — two-thirds of its total workforce — out of a job.

Around 2am on Wednesday, the board approved the massive dismissal with the favorable votes of six board members appointed by the Popular Party (PP), which runs the region. Fired employees will be offered compensation of 20 days’ pay per year worked at the company.

Dozens of employees were out protesting the measure, accusing executives and regional government officials of making workers pay for management mistakes. The director general and RTVV board members were pelted with eggs and other objects as they drove out of the station headquarters.

This is the largest collective dismissal undertaken by the Valencian government, but by no means the only one. The fact that the region is Spain’s second most-indebted, together with its difficulties to meet deficit targets, mean that the Generalitat is preparing more job cuts in the public sector.

RTVV has racked up debts of 1.2 billion euros, and had a staff of 1,695 employees. The bills for externally produced work grew threefold after the PP took power in the region in 1995. And despite all that, audience share for Canal 9 kept falling until it reached the nearly rock-bottom figure of 4.2 percent.

The labor adjustment plan, together with new legislation recently approved by the Valencian assembly, represents a turning point for RTVV. From now on, the broadcaster will privatize much of its programming, although it will continue to be tightly controlled by the regional government.

The company’s workers union has announced a class action suit against the labor adjustment plan, while the Valencian Socialists say they will challenge the decision.

Rumors about the layoffs have been circulating for months, and employees have already gone on strike twice. On one occasion, members of the workers’ union stormed the set during a live newscast, forcing the station to cancel live programming for several hours until the police stepped in.

Audience ratings, however, show that Valencian society turned its back on its own public television network years ago. Canal 9 has a reputation for being a mouthpiece for the party in power. In 2007, for instance, the Socialist candidate for mayor of Valencia, Carmen Alborch, was not mentioned on Canal 9 for several months in a row. When then-regional premier Francisco Camps was charged in the Gürtel corruption case, the station barely covered the story, if at all.

On top of that, four former executives are involved in legal scandals over corruption, while another — Vicente Sanz, the former head of human resources — was reported by three journalists for sexual abuse. Sanz, who was also provincial president of the Valencian PP in the 1990s, is famous for making the following statement, which was caught on a recording: “I’m in politics to get filthy rich.”

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