Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

The news I read a few weeks ago prompted me to address this issue: ETB3’s decision not to extend Ene Kantak’s children’s program at ETB3 surprised me and I still do not understand it, being an orderly and appropriate program.

I see very little television in recent years, and I am not an expert in any case. But that does not mean that I am not worried or angry about the evolution of public television in Basque, and especially about the ETB1 network, and about the current situation.

We met other ETB1, not so much in the 1980s and 1990s, in the early years of Basque television. Television was betting on the Basque language, investing in Basque content, offering its own productions or translating foreign films to the Basque language.

For example, the Basque series produced in Lazkao (Bi eta Bat, Jaun ta Jab, 64, My family and other beasts, Goenkale, Bentaberri..), humor programs (Txiskola, Txoko Latex, Zerbitzua, Hau da A.U., Wazemande…),

The initial objective of ETB was to contribute to the normalization of the Basque country. It seems to me recently that the opposite has been the case.

Where was that? What happened along the way? How is it possible that after successfully overcoming the first most difficult years, there will be a further decline? I do not think this is a matter of opinion, because the data are very clear (and serious). The most illustrative example is that of films in Basque: between 1983 and 1986, ETB broadcast all films in Basque. Since then the situation has changed enormously. In fact, if you look at the data from December 2023 and January 2024, only one film was released in Basque and 86 in Spanish. And the data from May to September 2022 is even worse: 130 films were broadcast in Spanish and none in Basque. The “Night of…” programme has been on television for 29 years, where hundreds of films have been broadcast. All in Spanish. This is as significant as it is sad. And it is not a widespread trend: in Galicia, TVG broadcasts all films in Galician (100%) (with the PP in command) and in Catalonia, TV3 also offers all films in Catalan.

The initial objective of ETB was to contribute to the normalization of the Basque country. It seems to me that the opposite has happened recently:

  • Instead of betting on ETB1 and strengthening it, they have weakened and emptied it, investing and focusing almost all the resources in ETB2 in Spanish.
  • Instead of contributing to the spread of the Basque country and bringing non-Basque speakers closer to the Basque country, it has ended up forcing the Basque speakers to do so in Spanish. And that's really hard. In 2016, I was first living, when I returned from participating in the Sahara Marathon, because I was called to record a conversation from ETB, but only if I did it in Spanish. And there we ended, on the beach of Gaztetape, the Basque presenter of Alsasua, the Basque chamber of Mungia and the three, by giving the ON button, forced to do it in Spanish.

To justify the decline in the supply of Basque content, hearing fees have been used as an excuse. Arguing that the ETB1 quota is low. But I don’t know what the egg or hen is before… Because, perhaps (surely), the reduction in the quality of ETB1 content has brought a low audience share and not the other way around.

And it is not just a matter of language, but also of national or cultural references. Today, the content of ETB is much more present in the furthest part of the Spanish state than in the nearest part of the Northern Basque Country.

Perhaps the decline of ETB1 is a simple reflection of the evolution of Basque society? A simple consequence of the weariness, passivity that we have lately with the Basque Country? And I have more questions to ask: should audiences guide the wager on public television? Should ETB's actual wager compete with ETB2 with T5 or A3? To what extent is the subordination of a public service to a party (interests) appropriate (and ethical)?

And as for those responsible, we cannot “throw away”, because ETB’s decisions and leadership have been in the hands of the political parties that have ruled the CAV over the past four decades.

It is time to put an end to this sad ETB and to begin to turn the ETB situation around, so that ETB’s real commitment is to create a decent and sound television for all Basques and Basques. Because in Spanish there are already hundreds of other chains.

Aitor Irigoien Odriozola

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