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Sociolingüística catalana

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


(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».

Law 8/1996, of 5 July, regulating audiovisual programmes transmitted by cable. This Law stipulates the setting up of the Consell de l’Audiovisual de Catalunya (CAC) and in chapter IV, article 12.4, the CAC is specifically defined as «supporting the process of linguistic normalisation».

2.2. Specification of broadcasting quotas in Catalan language

Establishing broadcasting quotas means going a step beyond the general philosophy of support for the Catalan language and contributing to the process of linguistic standardization. The specific indications on the linguistic quotas are based on the fact that Catalan is the language proper to any television belonging to the Catalan regional government or local authorities (9). According to this principle, the following quotas have been settled down:

50% of own production (whatever its nature) and the other services offered by any television in Catalonia must be in Catalan language, no matter the regime of management of the organization (public, private or semipublic), in agreement with the Law 1/1998, of January 7, of language policy.

As regards movies, television series or documentaries dubbed or subtitled in a language different from the original language, these must be available, at least, dubbed and subtitled into Catalan language. This is clearly established in laws 8/1996 and 1/1998, as well as in Decree 320/1996.

2.3. Sanctioning regime

The third main requirement of the Catalan linguistic laws relating to the television sector is that they establish a set of sanctions. In particular, Law 8/1996, of July 5, on the regulation of the audiovisual programmes distributed by cable, establishes infractions by failure to fulfill the regulated linguistic quotas. This same sanctioning ordinance is adopted in the legal ordinances for local televisions broadcasting by means of terrestrial waves. In agreement with Law 8/1996 a specific institution was also created to maintain fulfilment of the norms relative to the use of the Catalan language (10): the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia (CAC) http://www.audiovisual.cat

However, the daily working experience of the CAC as well as the changes the sector has undergone have made it necessary to redefine its nature, functions and goals. This is why the Law 2/2000, of May 4, on the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia was approved. In article 10 e) the role of the CAC regarding the Catalan language is reformulated and one of its main functions is described as "to watch over the linguistic and cultural pluralism in the audiovisual system of Catalonia and, especially, the fulfillment of the legislation relative to the preservation and normalization of Catalan language and culture, as well as that of Aranese.

In conclusion, we can affirm that Catalan laws have established a framework that guarantees the presence of Catalan language in the mass media. What they do not guarantee is the quality of the language used. In spite of the declaration of intentions that lead us to suppose that the CAC supports the process of linguistic normalization, the truth is that from its creation, the institution has not issued any opinion, decision or study making reference to a proactive attitude to the normalization of Catalan language, something which is far more important than merely broadcasting in Catalan language.

3. Legal framework of local TV

As already stated in section one, the State has the exclusive competence on telecommunications whereas the Generalitat has competence for legislative development and the application of the ordinances for all kind of television within the framework of the basic norms laid down by the State. Accordingly, the Generalitat, by virtue of Decree 320/1996, of October 1, started the process of allocation of concessions for the management of municipal and private local television services by terrestrial waves. This process consists of two phases: tendering and allocation.

The first stage ended in April 1997 while the second one is still pending resolution. The reason for the delay is that Central Government has not yet provisionally reserved the wave bands for Catalonia making it impossible for the Catalan government to allocate frequencies. All local televisions that are already broadcasting at the moment are therefore in an ‘illegal’ situation, or perhaps it would be better to say an ‘al-legal’ one.

Taking this into account, on April 6, 1998, the government of Catalonia lodged a administrative appeal against Central government, since the lack of planning for new channels licences prevents the Generalitat from exercising its own competences in the case of the granting of licences for the management of public-service local television by terrestrial waves. At the time of writing, this appeal is still pending resolution.

In addition to all this, at the beginning of 2002 a new debate about local television took place: on the substitution of analogical by digital technology. Joan Recasens, professor of Administration Law at the University of Barcelona provides the keys to understand the consequences of this process of change in an article published in the magazine Insert TV : http://www.xarxabcn.net/tlc/html/butlleti.htm:

«Fonamentalment, el procés es presenta com de simple substitució tecnològica, de manera que no afecta el règim jurídic de les diferents modalitats televisives ni dels drets o potestats que els operadors puguin tenir. Però la lectura del Pla i del Reglament demostra que això no és així.


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