Contemporary broadcasting is undergoing a period of change. This has been driven by political, economic and technological factors and the establishment of new rules on funding, production, distribution and consumption of audiovisual works. It is a time of cuts, of crises, of frustration and uncertainty. Therefore, the proper functioning of public TV within an ecosystem of audience fragmentation and high competition for attention has become increasingly challenging.
From the 60s on, new licensing opportunities in radio and TV as well as the democratization of technology and the irruption of the Internet have contributed to the greater presence of minorities. This growth pushed the creation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 1992. According to article 11 on the media, every country in the Union should protect and promote the use of these languages.
Today, it is not the lack of official recognition that minority language media suffers from. Mike Cormack suggests that the European Charter did give institutional recognition to ‘regional’ and ‘minority’ languages but the biggest problem these languages have is “that they are dominated by a surrounding majority language” (Cormack, 2007: 1).
Basque public TV
In December 1982 ETB (currently called ETB1) started its broadcast fully in Basque language with the aim of serving its community and aiding the revitalization of the language. Three years later (in February 1986) a second channel was created: ETB2. This channel broadcasts in full Spanish.
Original logo for ETB
ETB and ETB2 were running at the same time during a short period but ETB’s name was quickly changed to ETB1. In other words, an instrument created for the normalisation of Basque language has today been reduced to just one of two channels.
So, what was intended to have a positive impact sadly turned into an unbalanced linguistic configuration of the channels. This coexistence, ETB1 being in Basque and ETB2 being in Spanish, suddenly became “the new and uncontested normality” (Landabidea, 2017).
Watching “Basque television in Spanish” became quickly the norm, and the Public News Service systematically hid the Basque speaking social realities to non-Basque speakers, while kindly asking the witnesses and interviewees to please repeat their testimony in Spanish, effectively protecting non-speakers from any casual exposure to the language.
Original logo for ETB2
Currently, the poor audience numbers achieved by ETB1 is a result of this practice since “demand is evidently constrained by availability” (Cordones & Fornés, 2013: 208). As a matter of fact, the function of ETB has been recently brought into question at the Parliament. The political party EH Bildu, for example, has asked for more information about the amount of economic, professional and technical resources provided to each channel. EH Bildu has also denounced the alarming lack of good quality programs in ETB1 and the public TV’s inertia.
In addition, in the Basque Autonomous Community there is a second channel for Basque-language content called ETB3, however, it is full of repetitions and has no original context in this language.