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Sociolingüística catalana
Autumn 2002

The current legal framework of language promotion in Catalan local TV,
by Bruguers Jardí

Traditionally, linguists have attributed to the media a highly relevant paper in the process of language promotion. If we take into account that, in Catalonia, local TV has become a real social phenomenon, it is therefore necessary to think about language policy within the new framework of mass media. Despite the fact that there are some 90 local TV in Catalonia which have an estimated audience of 4 milion people, local TV lacks on the one hand of legal regulations and in the other one is trapped by a linguistic legislation based on broadcast quotas for the Catalan language and not on the dissemination of the Catalan standard  language.

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1. The changes in the communication systems and local TV: a Copernican drive
1.1. The fragmentation of audiences
1.2. The role of public broadcasting versus the private broadcasting

2. Language promotion and TV: what the laws regulate
2.1. The support towards language promotion
2.2. Specification of broadcasting quotas in Catalan language
2.3. Sanctionning regime

3. Legal framework of local TV

4. The role of mass media in the process of language promotion
4.1. The process of language promotion in the media: a matter of quota
4.2. The process of language promotion in the media: the role of the standard language

5. Conclusions

6. Bibliography


1.The changes in the communication systems and local TV: a Copernican drive

It would be mistaken to speak of local television and not stress the substantial transformation that the communication systems is currently undergoing. And note that I am referring to systems and not to media because our present and future are marked by the "process of convergence and interrelation of telecommunications, mass media and information technologies" (1).

This phenomenon started in 1987 with the publication of the Green Book on the Development of the Common Market of Telecommunication Services and Equipments, which opened the first crack in the existing monopoly of the telecommunications services in Europe and laid the foundations for the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in Spain. Indeed, the first Spanish legal framework relating to this sector also dates from 1987, (2) concluding with the approval, 11 years later, of the Law 11/1998, 24 of April, on telecommunications. This parliamentary act allowed for the complete separation of telecommunications services that until then where offered together with the telephone service and its network (3).

the future of local TV channels
The future of local TV channels depends on digital technology

However, in Spain, the State and the autonomous regions have different competences with respect to the legislative development of the television sector and its related technologies. It is for that reason that while article 149 of the Spanish Constitutional Law states that the central government enjoys exclusive competences regarding telecommunications, article 16 of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia assigns the Catalan autonomous government exclusive competence with respect to the legislative development and the implementation of the radio and television broadcasting regime. In broader terms, it assigns such competence with respect to all television media within the framework of the basic norms of the State (4). This regulating competence has been in operation since 1996, creating a legislative policy for the audiovisual sector which has itself been forced to adapt to the same changes undergone by the telecommunications and related technologies domain (5).

Needless to say the legislative policy (as mentioned in Report 1/1999 of the Audiovisual Council of Catalunya), (6) was initially based on the use of a limited resource (that is, the radio frequencies), and on the public interest inherent to broadcasting as a highly relevant tool for the transformation of the public opinion. However, liberalization of the sector, jointly with increasing use of the new digital techniques in the dissemination of information, brought about a change, still in progress, from a situation characterized by a restricted number of frequencies and, therefore, channels available, to one where frequencies are multiplying. This expansion makes possible the appearance of hundreds of digital broadcasting channels on different networks

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