Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Issue on Spanish Television in the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies

The latest issue of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies (Volume 8, Issue 1, 2007) is devoted to Spanish television studies. About half of the articles are in Spanish, half in English. The journal is available in e-format from the main Library webpage. Issue editor Paul Julian Smith sets the table in his introduction, New Approaches to Spanish Television:

"Spanish television is the elephant in the living room. Spaniards are amongst the most devoted watchers of television in the world and the last decade has seen an explosion of locally produced quality fiction in Spain, albeit one that has gone largely unnoticed except by avid viewers. The nightly audience for a single Spanish show (such as El comisario, the police drama that is the subject of one of the essays here) is greater than the annual audience for all Spanish feature films. Yet popular debate in Spain is dominated by the controversy over telebasura, and the relatively few academics who study Spanish television tend to restrict themselves to such topics as government policy toward the medium. Until Smith's recent Television in Spain, the only book in English on Spanish television was Richard Maxwell's The Spectacle of Democracy (1995), which focused exclusively on the institutional question of the coming of private television to Spain in the early 1990s.

Clearly the neglect of Spanish television by academics (with major exceptions such as Manuel Palacio) corresponds not only to a longstanding contempt for the medium, especially amongst intellectuals and the press, but also to the practical problem of addressing a huge and diverse object of study. This situation has changed recently with the availability of DVD box sets, which testify both to the new status of television drama, whose formal complexity rewards repeated viewings, and to the emotional investment of audiences in a medium whose intimate connection with everyday life renders it "closer" to Spanish viewers than cinema. Television no longer seems as ephemeral as it once did and scholars in Spain and abroad now have access to a large corpus of Spanish television which stretches back to the Francoist period.

Spanish TV studies can thus begin to address the question of the text: the specific aesthetic of the small screen. Yet that formal question must also be placed within an industrial context. Given the complex nature of TV "authorship" many producers will be at play here: executives (in state-owned TVE or the private channels), practitioners in the independent production companies that now provide the majority of Spanish programming, series creators, screenwriters, and stars. While all of these agents operate within institutional contexts (such as the extensive legislation on broadcasting recently passed by the Socialist government), the specific role of the creativity of producers must also be acknowledged in TV studies, as it is in cinema.

The essays that follow address in variable proportion and from different perspectives the three fields sketched above (that is to say, texts, producers and institutions) from the early years of Spanish broadcasting to the present day."

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