Research analyzes the role of TVE during the Spanish Transition cuadrito


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Televisión Española (TVE – Spanish National Television) was not only a witness to the Transition, but also an actor that played a crucial role in the country’s democratization process, according to research carried out by a professor at Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M -Carlos III University).

TVE durante la Transición

This research has culminated with the recent publication of “La televisión durante la Transición española” (Cátedra, 2012) (“Television during the Spanish Transition), a book by Manuel Palacio, a tenured professor of Audiovisual Communication at UC3M. This volume aims to interrelate the television medium with the Spanish transition to democracy; in it, the author asks about the role played by TVE in the political and cultural process that took place during that period, which runs from the change from the dictatorial regime under Franco to one of public freedom, from 1974 to approximately 1981. 

Long before that time, on the 28th of October 1956, television began to be regularly seen in Spain. Its first nearly twenty years of existence were marked by censorship under the Franco regime, and few people could imagine that, in the 70s, it would become one of the key agents of change in Spanish society and even one of the elements that filled the public’s collective imagination with the new values of freedom. This is what is depicted by Professor Manuel Palacio, who explains in his work that television collaborates in the processes that shape public opinion, in mechanisms of socialization, and in the order of the symbolic universe of each community. “In order for democracy to be consolidated, it was essential that the Spanish people become socialized in new values. This is where television programs played a role,” he notes. 

Thus, this study attempts to resolve a paradox: given that during the Transition this medium always served the interests of those that held political power, how is it possible that at the same time, broadcasts that sometimes collided head-on with the ideological assumptions held by the management itself often slipped through the cracks and into the programming? TVE’s management tried to create news broadcasts and a line of programming that were in line with the Government’s interests, explains Palacio. In addition, there were many hours in the schedule to fill and there were many workers (some 6000) spread throughout the country, who were trying to somehow reflect their way of thinking, whether that was in favor of continuing with the Regime, reforming the Regime or breaking with the Regime. “One of the paradoxes that was the most difficult for the maximalists to accept was born of the dialectic between the management and the workers: in Spanish Television, during the Transition, there were programs that reflected all of the ideologies,” concludes Manuel Palacio. “And from this situation comes an inevitable corollary: television does not have to be completely democratic in its structures in order to produce programs that are democratic.”

Historical overview of television

This work begins with a historical vision, going over what television was like during the Arias Navarro government (1974-76). Those were years in which “its programs established a public programming (national) and even used the same processes of common identity as in the town squares: flags, hymns and local festivals,” although television also began to reflect the erosion of Francoism’s values. This is due to the fact that, at that time, this medium was already considered the best way to reach the public. In fact, in his first appearance, Carlos Arias Navarro said: “My presence tonight in your homes is in response to the need that every leader feels to communicate directly with his country.” As logic dictates, the author dedicates a large part of this work to the government of Adolfo Suárez, during which creative freedom, as well as the regulation of politics and television appeared. In the book, there are memories of the first nude scenes on television, the position that women gradually gained as professionals of the medium, the role of important characters such as Chicho Ibáñez Serrador with “Un, dos, tres” (“One, Two, Three – a humor and game show) and his “Historias para no dormir” (“Stories to Stay Awake By – a program of thrillers), and Antonio Mercero’s productions. The book also describes how Franco’s death was experienced on Paseo de la Habana (location of TVE at that time), what the first images of the Royal Family were like, and what the first steps in live programming were. 

This work was made possible by funding for the R+D+i research project “Los medios audiovisuales en la Transición española (1975-1985): las imágenes del cambio democrático” (Audiovisual media in the Spanish Transition – 1975-1985: the images of democratic change), awarded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación de España (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation), whose main researcher is Manuel Palacio, head of UC3M’s TECMERIN research group (Televisión-Cine: memoria, representación e industria – Television – Film: memory, performance and industry ). Nearly twenty researchers from UC3M and other institutions, such as the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, New York University, the Universitat Ramón Llull, the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Universidad de Sevilla have taken part in this project, whose objectives include emphasizing the strategies of the audiovisual construction of the Transition as an important part of history that should be remembered.

Further information:

Plan Nacional de I+D+i: Los medios audiovisuales en la transición española (1975-1985). Las imágenes del cambio democrático (National R+D+i Plan: Audiovisual media in the Spanish Transition (1975-1985)

TECMERIN Research Group:

Book: La televisión durante la Transición española (Cátedra) (Television during the Spanish Transition)