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The Catholic Church, a near-monopoly on religious broadcasting

Since Spain’s transition to a secular democracy based on the notion of convivencia (co-existence), the issue of the presence of other religions besides Catholicism in public life has emerged. It is particularly serious in the media where the Catholic Church through its leaders, occupies a near exclusive position.
And yet, secularism implies equal treatment of all religions. In the case of Spain however, there is still a general belief that since the Catholic faith enjoys the allegiance of the majority of the country, it should have greater prominence in public life and the media.
What this means in practice is that the Church has an exclusive presence which gives it - and it alone - the public means of expression on issues which may potentially conflict with religious values like abortion, divorce, euthanasia, cloning research, etc. Considerable space is accorded in the major media to the opinions of the Church authorities, whose presence is pronounced in discussion forums and interviews. The same cannot be said for other religions.
These other religions are mostly mentioned when their positions appear to conflict with the Spanish legal system, as in the case of the radical imams. This situation contributes in perpetuating the image of religions not fully integrated with society, which hold radical views, or at least views not shared by the general public.
As for national television, the Catholic Church gets to air some of its own programmes, an opportunity not enjoyed by other faiths. Thus, on Sunday mornings, the second national station (TVE2) transmits live church services which take place in a different place each time. These live transmissions are followed by the programme "Pueblo de Dios" (people of God) which features news stories on different religious themes and also makes room for other faiths – but only Christian – to air their views.
During Catholic festivals, particularly Christmas and the Holy Week, all media stations reserve programme slots for the celebration of these festivals. In the case of the Holy Week, huge coverage is given to the processions and other events taking place in several different towns. This is particularly the case for the local channels where the entire airtime is devoted to celebrating the passion of the Christ. The same thing happens during the celebrations linked to the patron saint of their locality.
In the days that followed the death of Pope John Paul II, newspapers, radio and television stations gave massive coverage to this event. The State television thus devoted its entire broadcast of 2 April 2005 to the pontificate of John Paul II for 24 hours non-stop. The election of Cardinal Ratzinger also enjoyed the same interest. There were several feature stories, discussions and special programmes analysing the events, with the analysis quite often lacking critical detachment.

D 14 September 2012    AFernando Bravo López

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