The rain in Spain 

14 June 2001

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is more than 20 years old. The formatting may be strange, links broken and/or images missing. The text may have been superseded by subsequent events or later research.

The “look” of British television has moved away from the rather austere, understated presentation that it once had, towards a more loose and casual feel. But where had this idea come from? I found out when I went to Spain, and watched a lot of their presentation on cable and terrestrial television…

For example, TVE (Television Espanola) is the equivalent of the BBC. While to a certain extent it is commercial, it is seen as THE state broadcaster. There are very fluid ident sequences, where a camera tracks laterally through a house until reaching the windows streaming with sunlight, forming the “1” symbol as it goes.

The branding is very well used, and even the DOG is very discreet (all Spanish TV channels have them, due to the greater proliferation of digital and cable). TVE1 features a lot of serious news and discussion, and the soap has its place here also (“telenovelas”).

TVE2 is where childrens’ programmes are placed, and as in every other country, animation is very popular. Films go down very well, and the 1945 film “Un Espiritu Burlon” featured that week – no less than David Lean’s “Blithe Spirit”!

TVE2 also features sport, especially bullfighting shown live from Palace De Sport Monumental. I will not go into the pro- and anti-lobby here, but I should state that it appears to be one of the most popular live sports next to football from FC Barcelona.

All presentation was in Castellan, one of the main languages in Spain. There is something of a minor struggle going on at the moment as regards Castellan versus Catalan dialect, and there were examples of both of these, even on the dubbed material.

Interestingly, the only show I saw with an English soundtrack that week was “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, simply because Python (Monty) Pictures control their material: it was an odd hybrid to see an English series with Castellan subtitles!

TV3 tends to buy in a lot of American series, all of which are dubbed for local viewing, and the ident has this very US feel too. They strip a lot of shows in the way that Sky does, although the most watched at the time I was there was “Stargate”, shown at 12.20 am.

Children’s TV doesn’t occupy the 3-5pm period as it does in the UK: due to the siesta (roughly 1 – 3.30 pm) most of the programmes are in the afternoon. I originally thought it was because the schools were out for the summer, but was told that this was usual for most of the year, with the school day starting earlier and the second half starting later (around 3.30pm) and finishing around 6-6.30pm.

33 is yet another broadcaster that fills their day with UK and US imports, notably “Hollyoaks” and “Kung Fu”, again dubbed. The presentation strands are distinct: the kids TV is called “Super 3”, while the evening broadcasts are “33”, and there is notably fast changes within the ident sequences, almost like the old ITV days.

Antenna 3 has idents that depict everyday lives of its viewers, from the beach, the club, the football ground, and so on, and all end with the Antenna 3 logo. I noted that there were far too many “3” channels – and the presentation seems to be geared to making each of them totally unlike each other! There are some familiar names to UK viewers.

Canal + is well known for its ownership of the ABC TV/ABPC catalogue (acquired from Lumiere in the 1990s) and I found its ident, while a little, well, austere, was utilised in ways that made the name memorable. An electronic jingle is coupled with the name as it moves up, down, or across the screen.

All adverts are preceded by the word “Publiciad” (commercials – this is used on all other stations too, preceded by their ident sequence). The products advertised do not differ much from what is available elsewhere, but there is definitely more of a bias towards the healthy lifestyle type of product. Also, there is a tendency to put more warnings on commercials, in relation to their use (especially those for alcohol).

The coverage of news and weather (“Noticias”, “Tiempo”) seems to be intensive, with most news programmes being an hour long even in peak time. There is a lot of competition to get the news audience, and keep it, and the use of both the Castellan and Catalan dialects for news stories probably helps.

Interestingly enough, there were no clocks of any description on the channels, although there were reminders that their programmes were on at certain times, mostly expressed in 24-hour clock form.

No discussion of Spanish television is complete without telling you about the Communication Tower. It’s located high up on the ridge of a mountain called Tibidabo, near a fairground reached only by a special train, and makes Winter Hill look a little bare.

The conclusion I came to, after two weeks watching Spanish TV, was that where British television was influential on other countries once, our presentation now resembles the European ideal. But at least it was distinctive, fresh and very varied indeed – just like Espana itself.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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