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Sociolingüística catalana

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


(terrestrial, cable and satellite) public and private. The change from analogical to digital broadcasting also allows new forms of broadcasting to come into being, different from the traditional general-coverage channels, like the pay-per-view channels, theme-based channels and the so-called television à la carte in its various forms (7).

As a result of all these intertwined processes, we have to consider at least two aspects: first, the fragmentation of the audiences and second, the irruption of the private television must lead us to reconsider the paper of the public television service.

1.1. The fragmentation of audiences

The opening to the competition and the consequent multiplication of actors have had a deep impact in the economy of the broadcasting services. The changes in the logics of dissemination of the information have provoked changes in the production logics since it has increased the necessity to give new contents to the programme plannings.

The production logics is influenced, at a first moment, by the kind of funding of the medias, that is to say, if they depend on a private company which means that funding is obtained from adverstising and subscribers, or if they are semipublic: in this case, the source of funding is stable. It is also clear that the production logics responds to an analysis of the possibilities offered by the emerging markets.

One of these emerging markets arose around the local television. The proliferation of local televisions (http://www.xtvl.org) is a direct outcome of the success of the proximity television concept. In proximity television, production is motivated by the search for the imaginary and the social and economic activity of the local surroundings. Proximity television is therefore considered an instrument for social cohesion.

1.2. The role of public broadcasting versus the private broadcasting stations 

Although local television is considered to be an instrument of social cohesion, some people think that as a result of the transformation in production logics mentioned in the previous section, the role of broadcasting as a central instrument of transformation of the public opinion is at a crucial stage. For example, Miquel de Moragas states:

«Ja a finals dels 90 es disposa de suficient experiència com per poder fer un diagnòstic sobre els resultats culturals i polítics de la generalització de les televisions privades a Europa. D’aquesta experiència en sorgeixen dos arguments centrals en la defensa del manteniment dels sistemes públics de televisió:

»En primer lloc, el lliure mercat no garanteix, suficientment, les funcions polítiques, socials i culturals que podem atribuir a la televisió a la societat moderna.

»En segon lloc, no existeix una estricta correspondència entre mercat audiovisual i les comunitats (lingüístiques, culturals, nacionals, entre d’altres).» (8)

In view of the consequences stressed by Miquel de Moragas, it would perhaps be useful to reframe an old debate: the one concerning the role of mass media in the promotion of the Catalan language. Apart from observations on the promotion of Catalan language via the new television and the big channels, it looks as if, with the change in the status of local television, some conceptual keys to develop it may also have changed.

2. Language promotion and TV: what the laws regulate

Legal requirements regarding use of the Catalan language in the media have been brought to bear via Catalan law and by means of recommendations of varying scope on linguistic policy (Law 7/1983, of 13 April, on language normalisation in Catalonia; Law 1/1998, of 7 January, on linguistic policy http://www.gencat.cat/llengua/legislacio; Declaració universal dels drets lingüístics (Universal Declaration on linguistic rights) 1996 http://www.egt.ie/udhr/udlr-ca.html; among others) as well as by means of laws and regulations specifically regulating the audiovisual media (Law 8/1996, of 5 July, on audio-visual programmes transmitted by cable http://www3.gencat.cat:81/dgrtv/ftp/cllei8.pdf; Decree 320/1996, of 1 October, regulating the legal protocols for local television by terrestrial propagation, http://www3.gencat.cat:81/dgrtv/ftp/cd320.pdf, Law 2/2000, of 4 May, of the CAC http://www3.gencat.cat:81/dgrtv/ftp/clleica.pdf; Informe Bangemann: recomanacions del consell sobre la Societat de la informació (Bangemann Report: Recommendations by the Council on the Information Society) 1995, among others).

The main characteristics of the process of promotion of Catalan on television are as follows: the laws support this process; linguistic quotas are established for TV programmes and, finally, laws indicate sanctions in case of failure to fulfil the established quotas.

2.1. The support towards language promotion

In general, and in relation to the promotion of Catalan language, the laws and recommendations to which we have already alluded reveal an underlying philosophy of protection, promotion, diffusion and standardization of the language, as well as of support for linguistic pluralism. With regards to this general philosophy, the main principles are stated in the following laws:

Decree 320/1996, of 1 October, on local television by terrestrial propagation: Under heading 1, article 3, subsection h), the Decree expresses as a general principle in the case of local television channels that of «collaboration in normalisation of the Catalan and Aranese [Occitan] languages within their respective territorial areas, in accordance with the objectives and conditions laid down by Law 7/1983, of 13 April, for linguistic normalisation in Catalonia».


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