Television: The financing of Telemadrid, Ayuso’s last weapon to control public television

The month of January ended with unbeatable news for Telemadrid: Madrid’s public television achieved a 6.8% of share, the best the best audience data since April 2011. A first joy in a year 2021 that has not exactly started in the best way for workers in their underground struggle to avoid as much as possible the interference of the Madrid Government chaired by Isabel Diaz Ayuso in the autonomic chain.

Telemadrid has been without the so-called program contract for more than a month, the legal mechanism by which the financing and information model of the entire Madrid Public Radio Television (RTVM) is established –Telemadrid and Onda Madrid– in accordance with the law approved in 2015 by the Madrid Assembly.

Expired on December 31, 2020 once its three-year duration has expired, this legal mechanism should have been agreed between the RTVM management and the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid before the start of 2021, as established by law, but at the moment there is a notorious dissent.

The Madrid Executive, through the Ministry of Finance directed by Javier Pérez Lasquetty, accuses the RTVM managers for not having sent the proposal for the next three years until January 11 and also reproaches them for having incurred a deficit of just over four million euros in the 2019 accounts. The RTVM managers, for their part , they reply that the accounts for 2019 were closed “in budgetary balance” and that they have already sent their proposal, so there is no reason not to close an agreement for the next three years as soon as possible.

The truth is that without the contract-program, the authentic vault key, there is no official budget (among other things because the budgets of the Autonomous Community of Madrid have not been approved either) or the possibility of planning anything with a minimum of guarantees, sums up Luis Lombardo, president of the Telemadrid works council, which in his opinion “It causes a legal vacuum and generates instability and uncertainty” In the chain. “It is a completely necessary and essential mechanism for the operation of the house,” he adds.

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Lombardo assures that without the contract-program Workers of Telemadrid run the risk of “be left to chance according to what kind of decisions, whims or wishes”, because now it is the Ministry of Finance that must authorize the expenses. Lombardo also does not expect the contract-program to be renewed “in the short term”: he suspects that the Madrid government is in no hurry to do so and that instead of accelerating the negotiation it is using the legal vacuum “as an element of pressure “.

From the Government chaired by Isabel Díaz Ayuso they emphasize that the lack of the contract does not jeopardize “the viability of the company”. The Ministry of Finance guaranteed last Tuesday an injection of financing “month by month” to pay the salaries of all workers.

The workers do not trust. “We have to continue working. We cannot be aware every month that the government or whoever pays our payroll,” says Lombardo. That is why the workers celebrated the Citizens’ proposal, which is part of the Government of Madrid, to modify the law that regulates the operation of public television and radio to ensure that the chain continues with its activity without the contract program and without the need for the Ministry of Finance to authorize the expense.

“Ciudadanos considered that it should, as part of the Government, articulate a reform of a rapid, technical and simply clarifying nature so that there would be no problem in ensure the economic part and stability of workers, but without jeopardizing the objectives and obligations of the public service “, clarifies Lombardo.

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However, PP, Vox and PSOE knocked down the proposal at the Madrid Assembly Table. The position of the Socialist Group surprised: “He voted against, arguing that he is not in favor of emergency procedures and that he is in favor of opening a debate process,” says the president of the Telemadrid works council.

A long desert crossing

The renewal of the program contract is one more episode, the last for now, of the offensive of the PP and Isabel Díaz Ayuso for the control of Telemadrid. Since he became president, Ayuso has hinted on more than one occasion that he could close Telemadrid. Lombardo points out that the Madrid president “does not usually convey a negative message, but her circle does make many references that are not acceptable to the future of the company.” A clear example of this way of proceeding occurred in February 2020, when the PP deputy, Almudena Negro, threatened the director of Telemadrid with forcing his resignation if he was not “loyal.”

Curiously, Ayuso was one of the speakers of the current law, approved in 2015, which regulates the operation of Telemadrid and Onda Madrid. Lombardo still remembers an appearance in the Madrid Assembly of the then regional deputy recognizing that the management of public television at the time of the governments of Esperanza Aguirre and Ignacio González had been disastrous.

That time was the blackest on Madrid’s public television: Telemadrid was a bad example of permanent information manipulation, always in favor of the PP and its government. There was even a “parallel writing” that supervised and controlled everything that affected the leaders of the PP in Madrid.

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That time culminated with the famous ERE of January 2013: for the sake of economic profitability, 860 workers were laid off, leaving Madrid’s public television and radio on the brink of disappearance. Years later, the Supreme Court recognized that that ERE had been illegal.

Now after a long desert crossing, Telemadrid and Onda Madrid have recovered their prestige and audience based on a work marked by honesty and a certain independence, although the result is not always as expected and there are some sound exceptions. “With a responsible management of limited public resources with those we have, with respect for citizens and working for everyone, we can once again become a reference as Telemadrid was in its origins, “says the president of the works council.

And all this with a more than notable adjustment of means and costs, points out Lombardo. “Right now we are about 510 workers. In 2020 we had a budget of 77 million euros. What I mean is that we are achieving all this by being the cheapest public television in Spain and one of the cheapest in Europe. “

So it is not surprising the hostile attitude of the PP towards Telemadrid and Onda Madrid. This hostility has been responded to by the workers, convinced that Telemadrid can be a benchmark for impartiality and independence. “But you can see that someone does not want to drop the toy”, Lombardo affirms by way of conclusion.


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