CATALONIA

Prominent media producer under probe for role in Catalan independence bid

Despite controlling lucrative soccer rights in Spain, Jaume Roures is a committed Trotskyite

Jaume Roures, head of the Mediapro media group.
Jaume Roures, head of the Mediapro media group.Rodolfo Molina

Jaume Roures denies that his life is riddled with contradictions, but it would be easy to think otherwise. The co-founder of Spanish television network La Sexta and newspaper Público is a self-declared Trotskyite, despite being chairman of Mediapro, a media multinational that manages the television rights of the prime example of a speculative business in Spain: soccer.

He also claims to not be in favor of an independent Catalonia, despite having voted for the pro-secession, anti-capitalist party CUP in 2012. Now, Roures is under judicial investigation for the possible role that Mediapro played during the illegal referendum on Catalan independence that took place on October 1, and his activism in favor of the right to decide. The Civil Guard believes that he played an “important” role in the pro-independence process.

I am surprised by the low intellectual level of the people who wrote the report

Jaume Roures, Mediapro chief

In response, on Thursday Roures said he believed these claims to be absurd. “I am surprised by the low intellectual level of the people who wrote the report,” he said. “They make connections and offer explanations that not even a young child would make.”

Unlike many of his former colleagues in the ranks of anti-Francoist left-wing organizations – such as the labor union Workers Commissions (CCOO) or the Workers Front of Catalonia – Roures has never disowned such convictions. What’s more, he continues to defend these ideas. “For me it’s a political philosophy and a way of analyzing reality,” he told the digital media publication Crític in 2016. “The political situation here and abroad has ended up proving all this Marxist thinking right. With all of the nuances that you like.”

But nuances are not always Roures’ strong point. In an interview in 2016 with Catalunya Ràdio, the Mediapro chairman stated that when it comes to Cuba, there is a “manipulated image of theoretical repression.” Roures added that the Cuban regime was superior to Spain in a number of aspects: “Politics and democracy are measured by the defense of what is known as the general interest, the interest and the well-being of the people, and if we compare the ratios of Cuba with those of any other Latin American country, Cuba scores much higher; and if we go a little further, we can say that in ratios of health, education, etc., not only are they above those of Latin America but also above those of Spain, in terms of eradicating poverty, eradicating illiteracy…”

Mediapro has revenues of nearly €1.5 billion a year and employs 5,000 people in more than 20 countries

Mediapro has revenues of nearly €1.5 billion a year and employs 5,000 people in more than 20 countries. Roures has always been the soul of the company. The firm is currently in negotiations to incorporate as a key stakeholder, the Chinese fund Orient Hontai Capital. Mediapro is in turn the third-biggest shareholder of the TV group Atresmedia.

The businessman was the founder of Spanish TV channel La Sexta and the newspaper Público, the national media outlet that generates more sympathy than any other among pro-Catalan independence supporters. Mediapro has been behind several hits on Spanish TV, such as the satirical news show El Intermedio (La Sexta), and España Directo, a daily magazine show bringing live news and feature reports from all over the country.

The group has also worked closely with controversial regional Catalan channel TV3, the publicly funded station having broadcast several successful programs that emerged from Roures’ stable.

The producer established a personal friendship with the head of the Catalan Rebuplican Left (ERC) party, Oriol Junqueras, in 2004, when the latter was the co-host of a Mediapro-produced show on TV3 dedicated to figures from the history of Catalonia. In the movie industry, he has worked with Woody Allen, with Oliver Stone – on a documentary about Fidel Castro – and also with Isabel Coixet on the movie Spain in a Day.

The Civil Guard report on Roures that was sent to the Supreme Court focuses on Mediapro productions about the dirty war waged by the Interior Ministry against political rivals at the time when Popular Party (PP) politician Jorge Fernández was minister, and a documentary about the October 1 referendum in Catalonia.

Despite his vote for the CUP in 2012, at the start of what would become the ongoing independence drive in Catalonia, Roures now claims to be a dedicated Podemos voter. His relationship with the leader of the anti-austerity party, Pablo Iglesias, dates back 15 years. In the summer of 2017, Roures held a dinner at his house so that Iglesias and Junqueras could meet, as Roures himself has explained. Also invited to that meeting was Oriol Soler, a pro-independence ideologue who headed the promotional work for the October 1 referendum and sat on the parallel council to the regional government that was designing secessionist strategy.

Roures claims not to be pro-independence but does believe in the right to self-determination, despite not wanting to see Spain break up. Mediapro hosted the October 1 press center and co-organized a debate on the vote for the BBC. Roures was consistent – this time – with his ideas, and went to vote.

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