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Television Network Telecinco Sues Blogger in Spain

*Update: On November 27th, Telecinco announced the withdrawal of its suit against Pablo Herreros. Telecinco/Mediaset’s CEO and Herreros had a meeting and came to an agreement. A joint statement and the blogger’s comments can be read on his blog [es].

You may have heard of Pablo Herreros, the blogger [es] who a few months got sponsors of a television show to pull their advertising until TV executives committed to more ethical behavior. The controversy arose when the show “La Noria,” which airs on the Telecinco network, paid between 9,000 and 10,000 euros to the mother of “El Cuco” [The Kook]—a young man involved in a murder—for a live interview.

Herreros, who has long asked broadcasters to stop doing business with criminals—thus demonstrating that crime can pay quite well—launched a campaign on change.org to ask sponsors to withdraw their advertising

Pablo Herreros, foto del perfil de su blog comunicacionsellamaeljuego.com

Pablo Herreros: profile photo from his blog, comunicacionsellamaeljuego.com

if the program did not change its approach, and the petition garnered more than 50,000 signatures. One by one, sponsors joined the public outcry, and within weeks “La Noria” had lost all its advertising, at which point it was canceled and stopped airing. In this presentation [es], Herreros himself summarizes what was considered a critical victory for ethics and the will of the people.

Moreover, the Telecinco network—owned by Silvio Berlusconi and specializing in sensationalistic content, reality shows and celebrity news—substituted “La Noria” for “El Gran Debate” [The Great Debate], a program with a more serious tone, and it even seemed that the network wanted to clean up its longtime reputation for vulgarity [es].

But a few days ago came a shocking surprise: after several months of consideration, a judge has decided to allow Telecinco's lawsuit against Pablo Herreros, the blogger who started the movement, to move forward. It has been reported that the network has accused Herreros of threats and coercion. Telecinco is calling for the blogger to be sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3.7 million euros.

As the news broke, social networks mobilized at an unprecedented pace, even for a medium whose main characteristic is speed. Mario Tascón, a journalist and writer, launched a campaign on change.org to ask sponsors to pull advertising from Telecinco until the network withdraws its suit, and collected tens of thousands of signatures within hours. At press time, more than 145,000 people have voiced their support for the petition. The search engine Trivago [es] has already announced that it is suspending its advertising [es] on Telecinco through December.

On Twitter, the hashtags #lavozdePablo [Pablo's voice], #todosconpablo [everyone with Pablo], #conpabloherreros [with Pablo Herreros] and #bravotrivago received thousands of tweets, like these from JomagaroPepo JiménezOlga Herrero and Carlos M. Cuasante:

@Jomagaro@trivago_ES Dejará de anunciarse en @telecincoes El principio del fin de la TV Basura? #lavozdePablo

@Jomagaro: @trivago_ES will stop advertising on @telecincoes The beginning of the end for Trash TV? #lavozdePablo

@kuriosoEl ridículo de Tele5 en el caso @PabloHerreros puede ser histórico… ¿Alguien apoya a la tele?… http://chn.ge/Y23gLU

@kurioso: The absurdity of Tele5 in the case of @PabloHerreros could be historic… Anyone supporting the station?… http://chn.ge/Y23gLU

@olgaherrero :País d pandereta, igual se juega una pena superior a la del Cuco RT @mktfan: imputado x caso “La Noria” #todosconPablohttp://mktfan.es/XY7Pa5

@olgaherrero :Stupid country, watch for a worse sentence than El Cuco's @mktfan: charged in the “La Noria” case #todosconPablohttp://mktfan.es/XY7Pa5

@cuasanteAsí q denunciar entrevistas a madres de criminales es delito de amenazas! Que clase de justicia es esta? http://cultura.elpais.com/ … #todosconPablo

@cuasante: So condemning interviewing criminals’ mothers counts as a threat! What kind of justice is this? http://cultura.elpais.com/ … #todosconPablo

Outraged Internet users don't understand how a blogger can be sued for threats when they consider the plaintiff, Telecinco/Mediaset, to be a much bigger menace. As the Associated Television Viewers of Catalunya (TAC) explained in a statement [es]:

TAC considera que este tipo de acciones contra periodistas como Pablo Herreros tienen como fin último amordazar la libertad de expresión y un desarrollo natural de la profesión.

(…) la demanda de Mediaset es una táctica para infundir el miedo a todo aquel que se atreva a denunciar su modelo de negocio, que se lucra, a menudo, con el dolor ajeno, las miserias humanas y la intimidad de las personas.

TAC believes that these sorts of suits against journalists like Pablo Herreros are designed to mute freedom of expression and the fundamental work of the profession.

… Mediaset's lawsuit is a tactic to instill fear in anyone who dares to condemn their business model, which profits, often through the pain of others, on human misery and personal privacy.

The network defended itself [es], alleging that:

Cuando el Sr. Herreros decidió mandar una carta a nuestros anunciantes diciendo textualmente: “si no se adhirieran a nuestra propuesta (retirar la publicidad de “La Noria”) seguiríamos exigiéndoselo en adelante y promoveríamos un boicot de sus productos” ni está criticando, ni convenciendo. Está amenazando.

When Mr. Herreros decided to send a letter to our advertisers saying, quote, “if you do not support our proposal (to pull advertising from “La Noria”), we would have to go ahead and call for a boycott of your products,” that is not criticism nor persuasion. That is a threat.”

Strangely, the Telecinco website [es] does not mention the suit against Herreros, and neither does its Facebook page [es]. But interested Internet users have used other posts to leave comments about the case.

Bosco Martín Algarra, on his blog treinta y muchos [es], says:

Telecinco parece olvidar que el boicot es una herramienta de protesta en una sociedad democrática. ¿Acaso creen que son los únicos? (…) Hay gente que no compra cava catalán. Otros no acuden a restaurantes que se niegan a celebrar bodas de homosexuales. (…) Señores de Telecinco: ¿en qué mundo viven? La gente hace lo que le da la gana, y está en su perfecto derecho. (…) La misma sociedad que conecta con Terelu o que compra los productos que anuncian en sus programas, es la que se molestó por aquella entrevista tan repugnante de La Noria. No hay conspiraciones. (…) detrás de su audiencia no sólo hay consumidores. También hay personas, con inteligencia y voluntad. Y libertad.

Telecinco seems to forget that boycotts are a tool of protest in a democratic society. Do they think they are unique?… There are people who don't buy Catalonian cava. Others who don't go to restaurants that refuse to allow gay weddings… Messrs. Telecinco: what world are you living in? People can do what they want, and that is their right… The same community that connects with [Telecinco presenter] Terelu [Campos] or buys the products advertised on your programs is the one that is bothered by that repugnant interview on “La Noria.” There is no conspiracy here…. your audience is not just consumers. There are also people, with their own minds and will. And freedom.

And as Javi de Rios says in the article “Telecinco tropezará dos veces con la piedra de Pablo Herreros” [Telecinco will stumble twice on Pablo Herrero's stone] [es]:

(…) Las televisiones se deben a sus espectadores y a sus anunciantes, y a veces parece que no escuchan ni a unos, ni a otros. Telecinco obvia, de nuevo, que las redes son un punto de encuentro de personas, de espectadores, que se han puesto de acuerdo en transmitirles un mensaje, que no parece interesarles.
Es complicado, pero en ocasiones David gana a Goliat. Es más, es posible que en este caso pueda hacerlo dos veces.

TV stations have an obligation to their viewers and advertisers, and sometimes it seems that they don't listen to either. Telecinco has forgotten once again that the networks are a meeting point for people, for viewers, that have agreed to transmit a message, one that doesn't seem to interest them.

It's complicated, but sometimes David conquers Goliath. Moreover, it's possible that in this case, he can do it twice.

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