Spain switches on to TV turn-off

On May 10, la Federaciòn Iberica de Telespectadores y Radioyentes (Fiatyr), the Spanish viewers and listeners association, called on Spaniards to leave their TV sets switched off as a protest against broadcasters exceeding permitted limits for

On May 10, la Federaciòn Iberica de Telespectadores y Radioyentes (Fiatyr), the Spanish viewers and listeners association, called on Spaniards to leave their TV sets switched off as a protest against broadcasters exceeding permitted limits for the airing of advertisements.

Spanish law, in line with European Union directives, allows for maximum advertising airtime of 12 minutes an hour. A study of 351 hours of programming during February, however, showed that, of the country’s seven principal TV stations, five exceeded this limit, in one case as many as 26 times.

Explaining his association’s initiative to the Europa Press news agency, Fiatyr spokesman Vicente Sánchez de Leòn said that “in some way we have to stem this avalanche of advertising”. Within this aim, however, is the acknowledgement that advertising forms an integral part of the televisual experience, an opinion voiced by other backers of the scheme. “We don’t want to give a negative image of advertising,” Luis Boza of the Catalán viewers association TAC told the newspaper La Vanguardia. “It is not bad, we just have to achieve a balance.”

Interestingly, this view is backed by Spanish advertisers, which have reacted with dismay to a proposal by Partido Popular, the government party, to exclude TV channels’ self-promotion from the advertising airtime quotas. This, they feel, can only exacerbate the problem of advertising congestion and thus reduce the effectiveness of their communications.

The Día sin Televisiòn (Day Without Television) was similar to those already organised in other countries – such as the TV-Turnoff Week promoted in this country by the White Dot group and initiatives undertaken in the US by TV-Free America. However, it differed in that it was promoted by a mainstream organisation able to count on the further support of consumer groups such as the Confederaciòn Española de Amas de Casa (Spanish Housewives Federation) and SOS Familia.

Fiatyr claims the “strike” was observed by four per cent of viewers, a figure seized upon by some observers as evidence of failure. While the figure is low, however, proponents of the blackout claim their objective was more than met by having drawn attention to the problem.

The question of airtime availability and respect of the rules is bound to remain an issue across Europe for the foreseeable future. Indeed, France’s Assemblée Nationale is currently debating legislation first highlighted in this column some weeks ago, which is borne out of similar concerns.

But the realisation by advertisers, TV stations and viewers alike that there is a common interest in advertising-funded programming which achieves a proper balance of the aims and interests of each party has to be a positive step forward.

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