Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Chess Players....TeleMadrid

I don’t make a habit of watching TeleMadrid, the publicly owned television channel run by the regional government of Madrid; currently controlled by the Partido Popular (PP). The channel is subject to a rigid political control of its content that would probably make Chinese state television seem like a model of political plurality. Former employees from all sides of the political spectrum have protested about the situation, and many of the current employees have also participated in ongoing protests about the way this channel is run.

One aspect of this political control has been that TeleMadrid has thrown its weight fully behind the conspiracy theories about the train bombings. One night in the first week of the trial, I had one of their news programmes on whilst I waited for a more informative news programme to begin elsewhere. Even allowing for the political bias I have already described I have to admit I was shocked when a smiling reporter in Atocha station brandished, directly in front of the camera, propaganda stickers produced by the Peones Negros. This was a bit much, that a journalist on what is supposed to be a news programme should start legitimising the activities of a tiny right wing sect-like organisation is taking things a step too far.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I remember being appalled by this channel’s coverage of the London bombings in July 2005. Against a background of film showing emergency workers trying to extract the dead and wounded from the tangled remains of the bus that was blown up, the panel on TeleMadrid continued to argue about whether Prince Albert of Monaco had betrayed Madrid with his vote on which city should get the Olympic Games! It’s at moments like these that you get the full measure of the ethical standards being employed.

However, TeleMadrid has now pushed the limits of cynical exploitation of terrorism just a little bit further. On the 12th March 2007 they chose to mark the 3rd anniversary of the train bombings with a special documentary. You might think that such an occasion would be a chance to honour the victims and perhaps pay homage to the efforts of all those who participated in the attempt to deal with the consequences of that tragic day. Well no, instead what we got was the leader of the Peones Negros, Luis del Pino, being given free rein to air every conspiracy theory fantasy that has been invented about the bombings. So the channel which is paid for by all the citizens of the region of Madrid has nothing better to offer on an event that affected thousands of it's inhabitants than the distorted and sectarian vision of those who are only interested in using these events to try an extract their political revenge for the results of the elections that followed. You have to ask whether it is our own passivity about such things that allows a situation like this to occur with so little protest.

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