The fragmented Transition: postmemory and TV

November 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

DSC_0305This week I was presenting a paper at the International Congress of Communication in Pamplona. Organized by the University of Navarra, this was the 30th edition of the meeting, and it was devoted to the regional public channels in Spain. I was presenting a paper entitled ‘La transición fragmentada. Contrahegemonías vasca y catalana en los relatos televisivos del 23F’ / The fragmented Transition. Basque and Catalan counter-hegemonies on 23F TV stories’. I have been researching on the TV documentaries of the regional Catalan and Basque public TV since the eighties.

This is from the abstract:

“In particular, the counter-narrative of these televisions questioned the consideration that the coup was an attempt completely failed, and suggested political gains in the territorial reconfiguration of Spain, as well as the demarcation of red lines in the political debate. From the analysis and in-depth reading of six major documentaries on both channels, the author distinguishes the differences between the Basque and Catalan narrative. The text argues that the explanation of the dissent in the Basque Country and Catalonia is in relation of the national conflict: so for the dominant story the Transition was a success and a model to follow, meanwhile for the counter-hegemonic discourse it was an unfinished process with renounces and limitation for democracy”.

It was quite a lateral communication in a congress mainly focused on the political economy of television, regulation and new technology platforms. Despite this, the whole experience was very interesting and I was able to deliver a contribution in the framework of the research project on post-memory in which I am collaborating.

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Framing the Scottish Referendum, one year after

September 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

One year after I was at the University of Stirling to participate in a seminar about ‘Television framing of the Scottish Referendum’. Jointly with Marta Montagut, we presented a paper on how Catalan media (newspapers and television) covered the consultation. It was a very interesting meeting, with very well selected contributions that turned into a vivid discussion among around fifty assistants. The conference was excellently organized by Marina Dekavalla, one of the scholars working on this issue for years and with a wide knowledge on the topic. Claes de Vreese, one of the best experts on framing, opened the sessions with a very comprehensive explanation about how frames work in constructing political meanings through communication processes.IMG_20150918_093918

There were journalists, BBC staff and scholars from five or six British universities. Of course, most of the discussing focus was on the BBC coverage of the Referendum, and on the impartiality or the supposed bias during the campaign. But the audience was really interested in the Catalan process and about how Scottish politics does influence in the day-to-day political debate in Catalonia. All eyes put on next 27S, my overall impression was that Scottish academics and journalists do expect to see a democratic solution for the Catalan political conflict.

Following, an abstract on the contribution, which was very much appreciated by the audience.

Framing the Scottish Referendum, Seminar 18 September 2015, University of Stirling, Scotland.

The referendum and the Scottish constitutional issue in Catalan media. Representations, Metaphors and Frames

Enric Castelló and Marta Montagut
Universitat Rovira i Virgili

The Catalan media displayed a huge coverage of the Scottish referendum, with special programs, correspondents and analysts, who reported the complexity of the country and offered a myriad of representations of the Scottish and British politics. The day before the celebration of the Scottish referendum, the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy considered in the Congress that such processes were “torpedoes in the waterline of the European spirit,” while after the result, the Catalan President Artur Mas interpreted the process as a true “lesson of democracy” and the “only way to solve conflicts.” The reports and opinions established a set of frames, loaded with metaphors and representations of the country. The most common to explain the British constitutional conflict and the referendum were “the path”, “the marriage”, “the lesson”, “the battle” and “the “party”. Overall, the Catalan media represented David Cameron as a true democrat, despite risky and tactical; a leader that allowed what the Spanish state does not for Catalonia. Alex Salmond appeared as a smart and populist leader, who had led his country to vote. Following the results, the Catalan media also interpreted the victory of the “No” as a victory for democracy.
Ara, La Vanguardia newspapers and public television TVC offered news pieces on the country’s history and its relationship with England. The performances of Scottish stereotypes (the tartanry) were rather limited; although they had some presence reports and analyses tried not to fall into a box of topics. The interpretative frames were drawn considering to which extend Scottish and Catalan realities could be or not a mirror. For the Spanish unionist discourse, “Scotland is not Catalonia”, while Catalan independence argument point was that “Spain is not the UK”. The discourse on both sides tended therefore to present a narrative of the disparity.
In this contribution, the authors offer an analysis of representations, metaphors and dominant frames in the Catalan media during week of the referendum. After conducting a close reading of reports in the main dailies and public television and two of the most important Catalan daily, the authors conclude that journalism built a story about how to tackle the conflict between the Spanish state and the Catalan claim for a referendum, criticising the impossibility to reply this democratic event in the home country.

Note: This contribution is part of the project “The role of metaphor in the definition and social perception of conflict. Institutions, media and citizens” (CSO2013-41661-P), with the support by the Spanish Department of Economic Affairs and Competitiveness.

How is TV reporting the Catalan demonstrations in Spain?

July 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Capture_TVNext 11th September 2015 we will live a new massive demonstration in Catalonia, but this time the political claim will be followed by elections (27th September) that will provably lead to the unilateral declaration of independence from Spain. This week, moderate Catalan right and left parties reached the agreement for this joint-venture now called Junts pel sí (Together for yes). The impression is that there is no way back, after the long story of conflict and failed negotiations on the issue by both parts.

This is a process leaded by non-governmental organizations and civil society associations, which have organized huge political acts during the last five years and are claiming for a referendum, as Scottish did last year. The end of this hot summer in Catalonia will be as convulse as interesting from a political point of view, and there will be media and television channels reporting for major networks. The Catalan right for a referendum is a true challenge to test the European Union state of democracy.

One of the relevant aspects I have research on during the last two years is the great divergences among television narratives and discourses in the Spanish channels when explaining this political process. I do defend that we assisted to a truly depoliticization of the TV coverage through several mechanism like minimizing the agency of citizenship, focusing on political strategies, or just reporting on anecdotes of the demonstration. Today, Television & New Media had published some in this research line focused on the huge march of September 2012.

Masking Political Engagement: Television Coverage of a Mass Demonstration in Barcelona

Enric Castelló, Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Abstract: This article analyzes how statewide and regional public television in Spain handled the demonstration held on September 11, 2012 (the National Day of Catalonia), in Barcelona under the slogan “Catalonia, a New European State.” The author performed a content analysis of fifty-eight news programs and a narrative analysis of eighty-nine stories. The results indicate that the majority of the channels offered limited coverage of the demonstration. The television narratives also minimized the role of citizen agency in the achievement of goals through democratic participation and displayed a depoliticized account. The author argues that the coverage of the march and its consequences resulted in a masking of citizens’ political engagement; far from promoting an understanding of why the march was so massively supported, it instead presented a story on politicians’ strategy. The author relates this case to a wider trend of media coverage of citizens’ protests in a Western, post-democratic context.

Keywords: democracy, demonstrations coverage, mediatization, political conflict, public television, television news

Read more: Television & New Media, 16(6):521-537

We are not ‘looking at our belly button’

July 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

In Catalan we have the expression ‘mirar-se el melic’ (literally ‘looking at our belly button’) to refer to a selfish attitude in which you only consider or observe your own, narrow and limited context or situation. ‘Mirar-se el melic’ is a critical expression then to note that you are not able to have a wider, opened and richer viewpoint over the complexity and the universal values. And this critique is sometimes argued against the scholars, like me, who have been for years studying, analysing and discussing about nationalism, and specifically about the complex (and rich) context of Catalonia, Spain and the political, cultural and communicative relationships within the Iberian Peninsula.IMG_20150701_130618

If you focus on these topics, some colleagues are used to get bored and just note that you are to much ‘looking at your belly button’. This is just nonsense. And the proof is that you have to come to Loughborough University in UK to attend to a great speech organized by Loughborough University Nationalism Network on Catalan and Spanish nationalism given by an Hungarian scholar who has worked in the USA. You have to come here, the 1st of July, to share with a group of around 30 people from UK, China, Italy and other countries, a debate on the Catalan self-determination process, the FC Barcelona, the conflict around the Copa del Rey whistling other ‘domestic’ issues. Then, you confirm that your issues are universal and that your context is the European context and your worries and interests are similar to other scholars’ worries and interests. You can answer, sorry; this is not my ‘belly button’, but a global issue. We are talking about free speech, democracy, politics, legitimating censorship, and the sports events as a place for political expression.

Today I assisted to an interesting conference by Mariann Vaczi (College of Dunaujvaros, Hungary & University of Nevada, Reno) entitled ‘Football, the Beast, and the Sovereign: Sport and Politics in Spain’. She took a sort of anthropological viewpoint with emphasis in observation and historical approach. She recently wrote an article at The International Review for the Sociology of Sport on this issue and today she presented this and discussed on the topic here, in UK.

The academic world is watching with great interest all what is happening in Catalonia and Spain; and finding a great complexity to discuss about the limitations of democracy, the exercise of hegemonic powers, and the performance of political thought. These are big issues and the huge debate in the very heart of contemporary Europe, and today we discussed about them looking, why not, a picture about castells (human towers). To which ‘belly button’ were we looking at?

A great academic happening to talk about frames and metaphors

April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment


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Yesterday I was organizing a half-day seminar entitled ‘Media framing and metaphor use in conflict: politics, science, sports’. It was a very interesting academic event to which around 25 students, postgrad and doctoral candidates, attended. I had the pleasure to know two colleagues working on close issues who are Marina Dekavalla (University of Stirling) and Pieter Maeseele (University of Antwerp).

Marina focused on how Scottish media covered the Scottish referendum last year. She explained about her project on this issue and I am sure that the results are going to be very a accurate account about the media role in this political process. By his side, Pieter offered a very insightful speech on how the media in Flanders has been covering genetic modify issues during the last years; he illustrated us with a critical viewpoint on scientific communications and the role of stakeholders and citizens. Finally, my colleague Bernat López contributed with a engaging and also surprising speech on how the media have used a set of metaphors to refer to the doping issue linked to professional cycling.

All, students and teachers, enjoyed the approach of every speaker. Among the public, we got colleagues coming from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and Universitat de València, what was really encouraging. I had the very useful help from some colleagues at the Department, who reported on the issue. See more there: http://www.comunicacio.urv.cat/news/5/the-department-of-communication-studies-holds-an-international-seminar-on-framing-and-metaphors. All in all, a great occasion. Thanks to all for attending, contributing and your help.

All

An age of massive protests

January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

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“We decide”, a claim in Barcelona streets.

We live in an age of massive protests. The Arab springs (2010), the concentrations of the ‘indignados’ in Spain (2011), occupy movements (2011), Catalan rallies (2010-2014), Euromaidan protests in Ukraine (2013), or the demonstration against terrorism in Paris (2015). All of them are of very different nature, but gathering crowds of people in the streets claiming for a social or political change. Some of these protests scaled to violent episodes, meanwhile others were just a political or social claim peacefully expressed by the citizenship. Social and political science scholars, and also communication analysts, are working to better understand how public discourse and media are ordering the meanings of these massive protests: how are they framed in the newspapers, which images are having an impact in the public opinion, why some aspects of the protests are highlighted meanwhile others are just banalized or taken for grant, which meaning is attached to thousands of people in the street fostering a social or political change? Language use is never innocuous or meaningless, and metaphor analysis can offer a good tool to understand how media and journalists attach specific meanings to the demonstrations. Jointly with my colleague Arantxa Capdevila, we have worked on how 2012 protests in Catalonia were covered by major newspapers in the country. The research is bridging the previous project on political conflict with a new one we have started to analyze metaphor use in conflicting issues, not just in politics but also in science and sports. Among our conclusions we found that a major metaphor is explaining the demonstration in the realms of nature: “The people is a current of water”. This metaphor use is displaying in different scenarios where the people acquires a very different level of agency as actant in a story of political change. But meanwhile some stories treat the people as a potentially dangerous power, other narratives explain the event considering the participants as a potential useful power to social and political change. As we state in the conclusions, Madrid and Barcelona-based newspapers offer a very different account of the demonstration:

The Spanish papers minimized the agency of the people and cited them as problems for national interests; the Catalan papers showed the demonstrators as expressing the desires of the entire nation. The micronarratives in these texts represented the people as a danger to the establishment (the state) or as a powerful force to change the establishment and establish a new one.

Read more on this at Castelló, E & Capdevila, A (2015) Of War and Water: Metaphors and Citizenship Agency in the Newspapers Reporting the 9/11 Catalan Protest in 2012, International Journal of Communication, 9: 612-629.

1981’s coup d’état in Spain: a cultural studies approach

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

It was in a turbulent Madrid. In 1981, democracy was trying to break the iced era of Fracoism dictatorship, but the rightists, Spanish nationalists and the army still had to say a last word. The 23rd February (23-F) was the date, during the voting for a new First Minister, Civil Guards commanded by Colonel Antonio Tejero crashed into the Spanish parliament armed and shouting “Todos al suelo, coño!”.

114_laeTVE cameras and a photographer (EFE) recorded this image, Spaniards turn on the radio that night (la noche de los transistores), and since that moment 23-F became a site of memory, a ‘meaningful place’ ready to be read and re-read for current and future generations. Coedited with Francisca López (Bates College), a new book compiles eleven articles on the 23-F impact on, broadly, Spanish popular culture. The book, Cartografías del 23-F. Representaciones en la prensa, la televisión, la novela, el cine y la cultura popular (Mapping 23F. Representations in media, fiction, cinema and popular culture), is the first monograph that takes a cultural studies approach to the issue.

23-F was explained and retold by the media each ephemeris; films used the moment as a context for drama and humour; writers located the fiction and essays around the matter (including the acclaimed Cerca’s Anatomía de un instante); and journalists, comedians or cartoonists returned to the image and the story of a failed coup d’état that marked the democratic transition and the memory of the Spanish people. The book tries to offer a comprehensible approach to the uses of the 23-F narratives and the discourses around that episode; not only interestingly for historians, media analysts or sociologists, but also to any reader aiming to understand current Spanish politics, society and culture. Added to the editors, experts on media and cultural analysis contribute to the volume: Manuel Palacio (Universidad Carlos III); Arantxa Capdevila (Universitat Rovira i Virgili); Hugh O’Donnell (Glasgow Caledonian University); José Carlos Rueda Laffond (Universidad Complutense de Madrid); Laia Quílez (Universitat Rovira i Virgili); Ruth Gutiérrez (Universidad de Navarra); Sira Hernández Corchete (Centro Universitario de la Defensa, Zaragoza), Concepción Cascajosa and Vicente Rodríguez (Universidad Carlos III).

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