One of the biggest challenges facing Spain's new prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero could be whether he can bring real change to RTVE, the state broadcaster.
Radio Television Espanola has for years been derided as a voice for government propaganda.
Last year, it failed to report a general strike properly because to do so would have meant offending the then conservative government of former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar.
With record debts piling up, a reform of overhauling this throwback to the Franco dictatorship, is long overdue.
Zapatero has appointed respected academic Carmen Caffarel as director general to try to stop the rot.
She has set up a team of the "great and the good" to try and make a real change and transform it into an independent, Spanish version of the BBC.
For some, this will be an important test of whether Zapatero can make Spain into a vital democracy by giving it an independent voice.
John Grimmond, of The Economist, said: "RTVE is by common consent a disgrace, a government mouthpiece that would not have been out of place in a banana republic of yore.
"Governments, including Socialists ones, have vowed to reform it before only to find that a government mouthpiece can be vey useful at times. Hopes are high for real change this time."
But beyond the state broadcaster, the state of all television in Spain has long been a cause for concern.
It has become such an institution that Spaniards have a word for it: 'telebasura' - rubbish television.
A seemingly ceaseless diet of trashy soap operas, dubbed Hollywood films that you never wanted to see anyway, and a strange mix of quiz shows that end with a guest stripping off.
Welcome to the strange world of Spanish TV!
David Bisbal and Chenoa, two winners of Operacion Triunfo, sing a duet
Recent surveys found that 99 percent of Spaniards owned televisions and on any given day at least 85 percent of the population will watch the thing.
The proportion of their day spent in front of a Latin American soap opera or a 'discussion show', as they are loosely called, is as much as three hours.
And this in a culture that, with its Mediterranean climate, is famed for being based on going out. You wouldn't think staying home in front of the television would be the first priority.
Curiously, it is the north Europeans in colder climates who on average spend less time staring at the TV, according to surveys by the European Union.
Contestants on Martian Chronicles, a show classed as telebasura
But at the same time, research also suggests that 70 percent of Spaniards form their political views from what they watch on television.
Against this background, it is little wonder then that many foreigners newly arrived in Spain find adjusting to the culture shock hard enough, let alone coping with a nightly onslaught of televised trash.
Many retreat to buy satellite dishes and tune in to their favourite comedies or documentaries, be they from the BBC or Sky or CNN, beamed straight out to Spain.
Expat publications are littered with adverts for companies who will install foreign TV in their homes.
All say very much the same thing: "Don’t let Spanish TV drive you round the bend."
But it is not just the foreigners who are rankled by telebasura.
Spain's last prime minister Jose Maria Aznar promised he would do away with trash TV - but nothing happened.
Commenting on the lively chat shows filled on a nightly basis by people parading their gaudy stories, Aznar said: "People who you don't know, or you don’t know where they come from, telling their misery, insulting each other in the worst way and showing every kind of intimacy."
He criticised the bosses of the television channels for using the excuse of free market competition to allow standards to plummet.
Aznar added: "I agree, may be more than anyone else with free competition, but competition has to have its limits."
This was seen as an obvious vote-catcher as Spain approached a general election last March.
But there is a more serious side to the issue.
Some claim telebasura is undermining Spain’s democracy, as the population is fed nightly doses of shows like Operacion Triunfo – a kind of Pop Idol – and the seemingly never-ending Gran Hermano –Big Brother.
It stifles the ability of television to keep the people in a healthy democracy informed about what is going on in their country, say the critics.
Instead, they see programmes like Cronicas Marcianas (Martian Chronicles) - a supposed satire of other telebasura 'classics', where people insult each other as violently as possible just to please the cameras. In fact, the programme is a parody of itself, and many cite it as the worst example of the genre.
Even though Aznar criticised telebasura and the moguls behind trash TV, he met with fierce criticism from those who believed his right-wing government had allowed the TV moguls freedom to do as they wished.
Juan Francisco Martin Seco is an economics spokesman for the left-wing IU party and an author who has been an outspoken critic of telebasura.
Like many, he sees telebasura as a comment on Spanish society on a deeper level: it is not just bad television programmes but a sign of how the country's still youthful democracy is failing.
Seco wrote: "The situation is certainly demented. And the worst is that this degradation on the television screen shows how low our society has got."
He is not alone. A protest group, called the Association Against Telebasura, is made up of a mixture of parents' groups, a union and a television monitoring group who believe trash TV is poisoning the minds of their children.
The background to telebasura is thought to lie in the huge burst of competition which started when commercial, non-state run-TV finally hit the screens in Spain 1989, with Antena 3. After years of repression and censorship under the Franco regime, the cut-throat competition between channels led producers to look for the obvious lure: sex.
Soft porn shows like A Day is a Day — a chat-show with a difference that ended with a striptease artist - were typical.
But when this lost its thrill, audiences turned to other attractions. The ratings war has mainly been fought with rival stations importing low-budget Latin-American soap operas and locally produced 'variety' shows and sitcoms.
However, not all Spanish television is awful - there are rare exceptions. Cuentame - or Tell Me - is a soap opera about the trials and tribulations of one family through the years of the Franco regime into the present day.
The hugely popular show has been a surprise success, perhaps because it gives ordinary Spaniards an historical perspective as well as a saga about people much like themselves.
Revised July 2004
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Living in Spain, Spanish television
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