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

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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.

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