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Spain: How Social Networks are Cleaning Up TV

Technological progress doesn't always equate to progress in quality of life.  The case of Spanish TV programming is a clear example of this disconnect of these two.  For several years low-quality content has been broadcast in Spain. Called telebasura in Spanish (trash TV),  it has been a very profitable business model for its low cost production and wide audience reach.  These programs earn lots of money for the television networks by broadcasting the worst facet of humanity, often dwelling on the scandalous or immoral.  The sensational is played up for financial gains which raises serious questions about the ethics and whether the public is being well-served or honestly served by the information in these programs. A large part of reality shows and gossip or roundtable programs are dressed up with a journalistic appearance.  These are some of the comments of  the Manifesto against TV trash [es], of the Platform For Quality TV:

Bajo una apariencia hipócrita de preocupación y denuncia, los programas de telebasura se regodean con el sufrimiento; con la muestra más sórdida de la condición humana; con la exhibición gratuita de sentimientos y comportamientos íntimos. Desencadenan una dinámica en la que el circense “más difícil todavía” anuncia una espiral sin fin para sorprender al espectador.

Hypocritically worried and complaining, the trash on TV wallow in suffering, displaying more and more sordid conditions including the gratuitas exhibition of emotions and intimate disclosures. They've unleashed a downward spiral as the trashy spectacles must continue to surprise or shock the viewer.

NO TRASH TV! TURN IT OFF BEFORE IT DISCONNECTS YOU. Photo from arrakis.es

Mainstream Media vs Social Networks

However TV trash is in serious danger thanks to an active audience that has used the power of social networks and digital campaigns. Since 2008, the journalist and blogger Pablo Herreros has been critical of these programs on his blog, Communication is what the game's called [es], even calling some programs “subsidized crime” on TV. Some programs have presented interviews with criminals or their families to talk about their crimes on set in exchange for large sums of money.

In October 2011, Pablo Herreros put together a petition on his blog with over 33,000 signatures that demanded advertisers to punish the programs that engaged in these practices. Among the programs the petition sought to stop is the show La Noria, which  paid for an interview with the mother of El Cuco, guilty of killing the young woman Marta del Castillo [es] after a highly publicized case. The advertisers heeded the petition, making it the first time advertisers have completely withdrawn from a program. Just a few weeks ago the program stopped broadcasting.

The blogger Pablo Herreros also spread a video (in Spanish) that shows the victim's families pain and trauma caused by these type of paid interviews:

The fight in the social networks for responsible TV programming continues under the hashtags #NomáscrímenpagadoenTV (No more paid crime on TV) and #Otratelevisiónesposible (Another television is possible). The goal is for the petition to garner enough support to include politicians and television stations.  Several advertisers have heard its call which is itself a great achievement.

Some media outlets already point to a  possible decline in trash on TV [es] referring mainly to those programs that pay criminals, and sensationalist journalistic TV shows. The advertising crisis in Spain could be the perfect moment to think over what type of TV is most desired by society and help bring it about.

While it is important to trust in popular initiatives on the Internet and their influence, it cannot be forgotten that four days ago the Big Brother reality TV show, after 12 years of being broadcast, continued breaking audience records with 1.3 million viewers in Spain.

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