The shameless sectarianism and clientelism that have reigned for two decades in Ràdio Televisió Valenciana have ended with the demise of the organization itself. This public broadcasting agency was born in 1989, with the official aim of strengthening pluralism in the media, and fostering the use of a co-official language (the Valencian language, a variant form of Catalan). But in practice this television system has been a toy, an expensive instrument of propaganda at the service of the regional government; and now the crisis has laid bare the fact that it was built on sand.
The successive leaders of the Valencian Popular Party (principally Eduardo Zaplana and Francisco Camps) gradually turned this medium into an organization deeply in debt (1.126 billion euros), hugely overstaffed (1,620 employees, equivalent to the combined staffs of the TV channels Antena 3, Tele 3 and laSexta) and supinely subject to slanting of the news.
The problems of Ràdio Televisió Valenciana (RTVV) are not far different from those that plague the regional broadcasting systems of Catalonia and Madrid, and other regional television systems; but the Valencian one is not only the first such system to close down, and that in a region where a bilingual community exists as its underlying raison d’être.
Five of its former top executives
It is, above all, the system with the most scandalous track record of abuse and absurdity. Five of its former top executives have been formally targeted in corruption cases, among them Pedro Garcia, ex director of the agency, implicated in a lucrative contract adjudication to the Gürtel corruption network, in connection with the Pope’s visit to Valencia in 2006. As recently as last year RTVV was still defraying part of the costs of major events organized by the regional government, such as the Formula 1 prize, while paying salaries such as 10,000 euros to the outside announcer who broadcast the races. RTVV spends six times more than the income it receives, and the cause of its fall is a type of management that has been slipshod even when it comes to arranging the details of a mass layoff, which the judges have annulled due to the irregularities committed; among them the arbitrary, whimsical manner in which politicians and directors have handled the list of firings.
The Generalitat (regional government) say it sees few options other than shutdown owing to the financial bind it finds itself in. The present premier, Alberto Fabra, has for some time been in the inner circle of the Valencian PP and at the head of the government. He cannot claim that he has nothing to do with the RTTV disaster. But it is true that he had few alternatives, or none. To keep the system going with the pre-layoff staff was unsustainable both politically and economically, especially at a time of sharp cutbacks in public spending and social services. There are many victims in this story. These no doubt include the 1,620 professionals, journalistic and technical, left jobless; the plan for cultural and linguistic cohesion that first inspired the medium; the morale of a regional community that has already been hard hit in its financial system; and the interests of the taxpayers in the region of Valencia, because their money has been grossly misused for so long.