Activists fume as bullfighting returns to Spanish public TV
MADRID - Agence Frence-Presse
Spanisn bullfighter Julian Lopez 'El Juli' makes a pass to his first bull during the bullfighting on the occasion of the 'Semana Grande de Bilbao' (Big Week of Bilbao), at the Vistalegre bullring in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain, 22 August 2012. EPA photoAnimal rights activists reacted angrily Friday to news that bullfighting is coming back to Spanish public television in September for the first time in six years.
State-financed broadcaster RTVE said it would screen a bullfighting festival from north-central Valladolid on September 5 featuring star matadors including "El Juli" Julian Lopez Escobar and Jose Maria Manzanares.
"Television Espanola believes that a festival of this quality should be made available to all Spanish fans," it said in a statement.
Public television had halted bullfighting broadcasts in 2006, blaming the high price for broadcast rights and a dwindling audience for the spectacle in Spain.
But the broadcaster decided to show the fight, it said, after all involved, including the bull ranch and matadors, agreed to waive broadcasting fees.
It would be the first of a "brief but symbolic" series of top class bullfighting festivals shown on public television, it said.
"It is a clear backward step for the well-being of animals and the defence of animals in this country," said Silvia Barquero, spokeswoman for the political animal defence group PACMA.
"We think it is completely inappropriate for Spanish public television to be broadcasting bullfights when they had already stopped," she said, arguing that polls showed most Spaniards opposed bullfighting.
Barquero decried the fact that the bullfight would be broadcast live at 6pm during a 5am-8pm children's viewing period when violent images are banned from television.
RTVE's style book, the manual for its operations, which is available online, had previously said that bullfights were violent acts that should not be shown during those hours.
But a new RTVE board appointed after the arrival in power of a conservative Popular Party government last December changed the rules in February this year.
"The allusion introduced at the time that bullfights were violence against animals was changed by the existing board," said a source close to the RTVE management.
"Now it is the parents who have the decision, or autonomy, to evaluate and decide whether a bullfight would be damaging or not to the children," the source said.
Bullfighting has been on the decline for years in Spain, with a 2010 survey in leading daily El Pais showing 60-percent of respondents opposed the practice.
Barcelona's ring held its final bullfight in September last year after the Catalonia region banned bullfighting, becoming the second Spanish region to do so after the Canary Islands.
For his part, the mayor of the northern Basque city of San Sebastian announced just this week that he did not plan to sign contracts with bullfight organizers for 2013.
The latest row is unfolding against a tense political backdrop at RTVE, whose head nominated in June, Leopoldo Gonzalez-Echenique, was a top official in the previous Popular Party government of Jose Maria Aznar.
The director of RTVE has been a public appointee since 1980 but the law was amended by the previous Socialist government in 2006 to require nominees to be approved by a two-thirds majority of parliament. In April, however, the new conservative government used its majority in parliament to scrap the 2006 amendment, paving the way for Gonzalez-Echenique's appointment.
The government justified the change on the grounds that parliament had repeatedly failed to agree on a new RTVE president after the previous boss resigned in July 2011 "for personal reasons".
Gonzalez-Echenique has appointed a slew of conservative figures to management positions at RTVE since he took charge in June, notably appointing as head of news Julio Somoano, who is close to Aznar.
RTVE has five television channels, five radio stations and 6,400 employees paid for by a 1.2-billion-euro ($1.5 billion) budget last year.