Catalan government wants to eliminate Spanish language on public television

by Lorraine Williamson
Catalan in favour of Spanish language

The NGO Plataforma per la Llengua, heavily subsidised by Catalan governments, is holding a signature campaign to ban the use of Spanish language on TV-3. Any Spanish that is still used, the platform wants to see subtitles in Catalan. 

Under the motto ‘Stop the machining of TV-3’ (Paremos la castellanización de TV-3) platform per la Llengua aims to completely eradicate the use of Spanish, or Castilian, on public television. More than 35,000 Catalans have now given their support to this campaign that no longer wants to favour Spanish. 

According to sources from the platform, Spanish language has become increasingly dominant in Catalan media over the past ten years. According to them, too often experts are allowed to speak in Spanish, while they can also express themselves in Catalan. 

Financially supported by Catalan governments 

Plataforma per la Llengua was founded in 1993 and now has over 20,000 members. For its activities, this NGO mainly depends on subsidies from the Catalan regional government. According to its own website, the platform received an amount of €535,000 from the Generalitat. Additional, subsidies were received from municipal and provincial councils and universities from their own region, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. 

Two years ago, the NGO conducted an undisputed survey of the use of Catalan and Castilian in the school playground. As a result, there are ‘ten commandments’ drawn up for the audiovisual sector in Catalonia. And the platform is committed to promoting the use of Catalan in all areas of society, including the judiciary. 

Majority of Catalans have Spanish language as their mother tongue 

Data from the Catalan statistical office Idescat shows that a majority of Catalans have Spanish as their mother tongue; that’s 52.7% versus 31.5% native speakers of Catalan. Research found that more people in Catalonia identify with Spanish than with Catalan (46.6% and 36.3%, respectively). Spanish is also generally spoken by most Catalans (48.6% versus 36.1%). 

No ‘Spanishing’ on public channel 

TV3 Linguistics Head Ernest Rusinés is concerned about Plataforma per la Llengua’s campaign and the reactions generated on social media. After internal consultation, the channel concluded there is no ‘Spanishing’. And that, contrary to what the NGO claims, they still use the normalisation of Catalan as a business principle. However, Rusinés does not deny there is a minimal trend in favour of Spanish. However, he believes, that is more a matter of perception than of the actual extent to which Spanish is spoken. 

For example, current affairs programs use Spanish when non-Catalan guests or experts speak. However, after measurement, it turned out that Spanish was spoken in less than 10% of the broadcast time. Perhaps that was a little more than a few years ago, but since the conviction of the Catalan separatist leaders, the channel also wants to be open to opinions about Catalan current affairs from Madrid. 

No Catalan subtitles 

Plataforma per la Llengua thinks this is ‘unnecessary’, because even if the speaker or guest understands Catalan perfectly, the NGO automatically switches to Spanish. He therefore advocates that at least Catalan subtitles appear on the screen when Spanish is spoken. But that again goes against the house rules of TV-3, which prescribe that subtitling may only be used when a language is really not understood. And Spanish, says Rusinés, is a co-official language of Catalonia and will therefore not be subtitled on the public channel. 

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