Opposition assumes control of RTVV after PP board members step down

Leftist representatives vow to keep broadcaster afloat as anti-government programing menu sees audience share soar

A Canal 9 presenter conducting an interview on Wednesday amid people protesting against the closure of RTVV.
A Canal 9 presenter conducting an interview on Wednesday amid people protesting against the closure of RTVV. Biel Aliño (EFE)

The four members of the board of Valencia regional broadcaster RTVV belonging to opposition parties on Thursday took control of the Burjassot production center to “comply with the law and maintain the normal functioning” of radio and television schedules. The director general of RTVV, Rosa Vidal, and the four Popular Party (PP) appointees stepped down on Wednesday following the decision of the regional government (Generalitat) to shut down the company.

Employees of RTVV have continued to broadcast despite the decision, offering a menu entirely composed of criticism of the PP administration of Alberto Fabra. The regional premier explained this week that it was financially unviable to comply with a court order reinstating 1,000 employees of RTVV who had been laid off almost a year earlier.

The four opposition appointees read a statement to hundreds of RTVV employees at the door of the Burjassot center, offering their willingness to keep the broadcaster afloat and to act as mediators between the company’s labor representatives and the Generalitat. Two of the board members – representing the Socialists, Compromís and the United Left political groupings -- are journalists for RTVV who were sacked in the labor force readjustment plan (ERE) carried out by the PP regional government and overturned this week by the courts.

The most-viewed program was a political debate -- unprecedented outside of electoral campaigning

The regional government has so far been unable to find a way to halt the programming, given that the statute between RTVV and Fabra’s administration lends the former autonomy in its management. Neither does the Generalitat hold the power to remove the four opposition board members as they were elected by the regional assembly. According to RTVV’s statute, when the director generalship is vacant the president of the board assumes control of the broadcaster. But as Vidal occupied both posts a vacuum has been created that the Generalitat is seeking a legal formula to resolve.

In the meantime, the audience share of Nou, formerly Canal 9 and RTVV’s flagship television channel, has tripled since the workers assumed control. The most-viewed program was a political debate -- unprecedented outside of electoral campaigning – featuring the secretary generals of the regional PP, Socialist Party, Valencia Nationalist Bloc and the United Left.

On Thursday, Vidal said in an interview with the radio station Cadena Ser that for the first time in 24 years of operation RTVV was set to turn a profit this year.

Fabra had argued that the reinstatement of the 1,000 workers would cost the Generalitat 40 million euros, money that was needed to maintain basic public services in the cash-strapped region. However, on Thursday deputy premier José Ciscar told the regional assembly that the costs of complying with the court order and keeping RTVV on air would be 228 million euros between now and the end of the legislature, “with which 57 schools and 60 health centers could be built.”

Ciscar broke down his estimate into 74 million euros in salaries and 40 million in running costs annually over two years, noting that the RTVV budget for 2014 is 61.4 million euros.

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