Christmas is looming with bunting in the windows. Paper Santas are climbing the walls (as indeed are many parents), there are coloured lights in every shopping street while sickly children’s voices singing villancicos can be heard through the piped music across the plazas and malls. Spend spend spend. Shopping is so fierce in Madrid, they’ve made a couple of pedestrian streets one way!
And there’s still another ten days to go.
Tráfico has announced another campaign to try and slow us down (figuratively speaking) over the season; there’s a nice Christmas card from the Royals; the latest (eighth!) Star Wars is in the cinemas; the Catalonians are busy selling those revolting caganers and the Weather Gods have promised blue skies – except for Galicia of course.
But there are a few things to deal with beforehand. First of all, there are the Catalonian elections to face on the Thursday next week, and then the national lottery on the Friday. Both results will receive enormous coverage in the national press.
On Sunday, Christmas Eve, everyone stays home and eats a gigantic dinner centred around gambas and jamón as we loosen our belts a notch or two... Phew! We made it!
‘Housing prices rose by 6.7% in the third quarter, the highest rate in a decade. Up until September, houses increased by 12.3% in Madrid and 10% in Catalonia’. A headline from El País here.
Catalonia tourism has such a bad reputation these days, that the Government has approved measures to ‘re-launch the Brand Barcelona’. A story from the ABC here.
‘Half of Ryanair pilots in Ireland to go on strike five days before Christmas, Germans say strikes can be expected ‘at any time’...’. From The Olive Press here.
Small business in crisis: more than 10,000 self-employed store-owners have lowered their shutters in the past year. Sales from traditional shops have plummeted by 27,000 million euros since the crisis, while medium-sized and large supermarkets have taken away customers in all sectors and the phenomenon of cyber-platforms are questioning the very idea of a traditional shop’. Público looks at the new realities for small shop-owners.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. Between them, these grandes tecnológicas have created just 1,500 jobs in Spain in the last five years, says El Español here.
‘Electricity in Spain is the third most expensive in Europe. We pay a considerably more expensive electricity bill than neighbouring France and the large European industrial powerhouse, Germany’. Headline at Diario 16 here.
‘Spain's Banco Santander, the euro-zone's biggest lender, will slash 1,100 jobs as part of a restructuring following its purchase of smaller rival Banco Popular, unions said Tuesday.
"The reorganisation of the central services of Banco Santander and Banco Popular will affect 1,100 people....the vast majority through early retirement," unions representing the lender's workers said in a statement after they signed an agreement with management...’. Found at The Local here.
‘Just how much more stress Europe’s banking system can bear will be one of the big questions of 2018. This year was already a pretty stressful year. In Spain, 300,000 shareholders and subordinate bondholders mourned the passing of the country’s sixth biggest bank, Banco Popular, which was acquired by Santander for the measly price of one euro. ... Now, a whole new problem awaits. A report published by Spain’s second largest lender, BBVA, has warned about the potential impact on the sector’s profitability of new rules on provisions due to come into effect in early 2018...’. From Wolf Street here.
Manuel Rajoy says he is ready to be the candidate for the Partido Popular in his sixth election when the time comes: ‘why not present myself as a candidate – I’ve not done much wrong’, he tells reporters at El Español here.
A judge in Castro Urdiales, Cantabria (known, apparently, as ‘the Marbella of the north’), investigating twenty different cases of corruption, is complaining of ‘brutal pressure’ to drop the cases. He asks for ‘the end of political influence within the justice system’. More here.
In the Catalonian elections – there are three ‘constitutionalist parties – the PP, PSOE (PSC) and Ciudadanos. While the leader of the three is Ciudadanos (it’s led by an attractive yet tough woman called Inés Arrimades), she may not win. Mariano Rajoy – whose local candidate for the PP is not doing at all well, says he is prepared to back either Arrimades or the PSC leader Miquel Iceta. So much, says El Diario, for Rajoy’s ‘the most voted list should govern’ mantra of not so long ago. The largest group in Catalonia appears to be the ERC (independent republican left), but without any chance of a majority (here).
All things said, Catalonia hasn’t done so badly from central Government finance, says VozPópuli, with the region receiving the fifth highest funding from Madrid.
Over three thousand companies have moved their head office out of Catalonia for somewhere else in Spain since October 1st, says El Mundo here.
The most Catalán town of them all is a small Spanish territory located near the Spanish border in southern France. It’s called Llivia. ‘All of Gaul is occupied by the Frenchies. All? No! One village holds out, home to the irrepressible Catalonians who resist all invasions and political threats from outside...’ . El Mundo has its laugh here.
From Intereconomía: ‘The Andalusian PSOE client network on the bench: the list of 22 former high officials charged’. The article begins ‘In total, more than 300 people have been charged, including 22 former senior officials of the Junta de Andalucía, governed by the PSOE throughout the ‘democratic period’. The main question is to discover the whereabouts of 741 million missing euros. Not a single one of the defendants took public money, but the defendants will have to answer if a client network was woven at the expense of taxpayers' money. Payments were made through ERE (redundancies), a feared word for any payroll worker in a company, but a treat for whomsoever the Junta de Andalucía included. The system of this clientele network was very sophisticated, with a framework in which top members of the Junta (now no longer in power), companies, unions and mediators were supposedly involved. All of them allegedly conspired to profit from mass supposed layoffs in companies...’. The article considers the situation for twenty senior figures, including two past presidents of the Junta de Andalucía, Manuel Chaves and Jose Antonio Griñán.
El Huff Post also considers the case that began on Wednesday. They talk of ‘an alleged macro-fraud of 855 million euros’. The article also includes a video. Chaves and Griñán will be the last to be interrogated.
‘I’m just fine, but I’m not saying anything’: Griñán tells reporters on Wednesday here.
What are delitos de odio (hate crimes)? The definition supplied by the Ministry of Justice is different, says Público here, from that of article 510 of the Penal Code. In any event, avoid using either of them.
From The Guardian: ‘'Nobody cares about us': Britons living in rest of EU voice their dismay. We asked British nationals living in the EU to tell us how they view the latest Brexit negotiations and where they see the future’. Or, look, you can tell the newspaper your own story (here).
‘On Tuesday 12 December, various associations (the3million, Españoles en el Reino Unido, EuroCitizens and British in Europe) met the Spanish foreign minister in Madrid. Alfonso Dastis and his team listened to the concerns of these groups that represent many of the 300,000 Britons in Spain and 200,000 Spaniards in the UK and there was a frank and fruitful discussion...’. From the EuroCitizens Blog here. La Vanguardia picks up on the story here.
‘Brits in Spain still in the dark despite "sufficient progress" being made in Brexit talks. Citizens groups have reacted to last Friday's joint report between the UK government and European Union on phase one of the Brexit negotiations which states that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed"’, From Sur in English here.
There are essentially two auditors of the Spanish media - the OJD which measures how many copies are printed, and the slightly larger, but perhaps less believable, EGM, which says how many people read them (or see or listen to them in the case of broadcasters). The OJD is older, similar to the British ABC.
The EGM sometimes appears to be quite generous with the numbers - with twelve people, for example, apparently reading each and every copy of our local daily newspaper. Perhaps that includes Internet visitors (who rarely read an entire newspaper on the screen).
I once owned a 'free' newspaper with three editions (The Entertainer), rather before these things were popular. We were printing 40,000 copies for a while there, although the OJD rather unkindly audited us at a disappointing 39,950. They then wanted to triple their price because it was, you know, three editions. With the unsurprising result that...
OJD exits left, followed by bear.
Printing papers these days is quite expensive. Let us say, as a nice round figure (variables include colour, pagination and of course volume), one euro a copy. Distribution is extra - getting them to the corner newspaper kiosk (or, in the case of the freebies, to the corner bar or shop). Distribution for the ordinary press is a bit cheaper per unit, because the costs are shared, although it remains disturbingly high (see the figures here). A large agency like Boyacá picks them up from the printers and takes them fast to the sales points - essentially for all of the competing titles.
In the case of the freebies, it’s each one for himself (although the EWNMG has now acquired a couple of its erstwhile competitors which must lower their unit distribution costs).
There are, of course, many other costs typical to any business: premises, staff, transport, social security and bird-food for the office parrot.
However, the printing costs are higher these days than ever, and - for the regular newspapers - readership is down. Profit, if there is to be any, must come from the advertisers. This situation, as we have seen elsewhere (BoTs passim), leads to manipulation of the news items, especially when the juicy institutional advertising accounts are signed. Even so, some of the major Spanish dailies (including the ABC, El País and La Vanguardia) are now talking of reducing their editions to just two or three a week in 2018.
The weekly free newspapers, particularly (and of course!) the foreign-owned foreign-language freebies, get no institutional advertising at all. They also (in my experience) get no, or very little, Spanish agency advertising. You can search all day without finding any adverts for Volkswagens, Parador hotels, Nesquik, toothpaste or cough medicines. Perhaps to save the agency the bother of a second advert in another language, perhaps to keep them focused on the traditional high-volume kick-back paid by their larger customers – known as un rápel, and perhaps because it's 'all in the family', which doesn't include furriners (sorry).
While a normal newspaper goes to the kiosk, and a free publication can be easily put into the letterbox, in the case of foreign-language free-sheets one must invite the reader to pick up a copy, which means there must be something to read. A bit of text here and there where an advert could have gone. Costs again go up.
So what do they live on, these free-sheets? Local advertisers, usually foreigners. Which brings us back to where we started: the circulation figures. I recently looked at the EWN's slightly alarming Media Pack (which begins with a Donald Trump quote) and found a claim of 'more than half a million copies per month' (a month has, I guess, 4.3 weeks in it) and a readership of ’more than half a million readers per week'. I wrote the other day and asked them for some audited figures, but haven't heard anything from them so far. At a presumed estimate of 120,000 copies per week (six editions), they appear to have a higher print run than the 99,000 daily sales figure reported for El País!
Newspapers, free ones and paid for ones, have all fallen for the charms of the Internet. The thing is - it's almost without cost. You just pay the writers (and, in the certain cases, the lay-out artists), and you wait for your readers to show up. Some Spanish dailies, like El Diario and El Español, only exist as cyber-news.
Then there are the bloggers, who (like my Spanish Shilling - here) apparently do their thing for free!
The readers, of course, are going to be visiting more than just one site, receiving a plurality of differently-shaded news. They might buy – or have bought in the past – just the one newspaper, but now they will prefer multiple news-sites. They probably won't dwell on the advertisers any more than they did when reading a newspaper. After all, with the TV or radio, you are forced to sit through an advert: with a newspaper, you simply turn the page. With a computer, it’s just a slightly angry *click*.
With a subscription news-service like Business over Tapas (here) - there's no adverts to be leery of (although...). So, which news-system will best survive into the future? Lenox dixit.
From The Local: ‘A study by the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review argues that Spanish media, led by El País, have mirrored the biased policies of politicians involved in the secessionist drama. An October 2017 review by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) claims that Spanish daily El País, TVE and other major Spanish, and Catalan, media outlets have failed to retain their impartiality during their coverage of the Catalan crisis...’.
From El País in English: ‘Spain’s forgotten female war correspondent. Carmen De Burgos (born in Rodalquilar, Almería 150 years ago this week) ignored social mores to become a prominent writer of the early 20th century’. Franco had her written out of history.
Despite our ‘sun tax’, Mariano Rajoy was in Paris this week to join other world leaders (excluding the American one) to support the efforts of Emmanuel Macron to fight Climate Change (AKA ‘Global Warming’). The ABC was there.
An interesting article from the Association of Renewable Energies – the APPA – begins: ‘That renewable energies were expensive and they were responsible for the high electric bill we all have to pay each month was a lie. But the regime's press (the media concentration in Spain is equivalent to Berlusconi's Italy) turned that slogan into a mantra and, by repeating it, it became fixed in the collective subconscious of this country. Now, as it is becoming more and more difficult to blame renewables as the cause of the rise in the electric bill, the official discourse has had to invent other solutions: the blame lies with the drought (Climate Change, don’t you see); or the wind (which has abandoned us); or the French nuclear power plants (which are on holiday this month); or maybe the sheikhs are to blame (and the global oil and gas market); or perhaps it was Yoko Ono’s fault all along...’. Energías Renovables puts this to bed here.
‘The Guadiana River is dying: this is how a plant from the Amazon devours the fourth river in Spain’, says El Español here. ‘Ten years ago a plant called camalote (water hyacinth) appeared in the Guadiana (Mérida, Badajoz...), a dangerous tropical species that has invaded the course of the river and is killing the ecosystem there. An environmental and socio-economic drama in which 30 million euros have so far been invested without results...’.
The Hotel Algarrobico – amazingly – remains standing. The ecologists are railing at the lawyers from the Junta de Andalucía who now reckon that it’ll take another two years of hard work before the unfortunate monster can be demolished. Almería Hoy has the story here.
Despite the heavy rain left by Ana last weekend, the reservoirs remain half empty. However, the one that serves Vigo, where there was little more than mud coming out of the taps, has been refreshed and now stands at 71%. Video and report at LaSexta here.
From Spanish Property Insight comes ‘Water bills are cheap in Spain despite lack of rain, but other utilities are expensive by EU standards’.
An illegal restaurant operating happily enough on an island off Benidorm (part of the natural park of Serra Gelada) for 58 years may have finally met its end. The ecologists are pushing to have it closed. It seems that over the years various funcionarios have been paid off to look the other way... El Diario has the story.
A new plaga has been found, which is attacking and killing pine trees across Southern Spain. It’s an insect called cochinilla de pino resinero (here) or the Common Pine Shoot Beetle, says La Voz de Almería here.
What is happening to the public health in Spain? El Gran Wyoming speaks of the continuous cuts in government spending on the health service. Article and video here.
From The Olive Press: ‘Spain to declare pets as ‘beings’ and not ‘objects’ in landmark ruling’. More here.
There’s a popular TV program called ‘Españoles Por El Mundo’, which introduces the viewer to different characters who live in interesting places. Now, says Público, there’s a less jolly version, in film form, called ‘Españoles por El Exilio’ dealing with those who left Spain simply in search of a job. The story and trailer can be found here.
Extra Confidencial publishes a report to say that Pope Francis does not want to visit Spain as he does not feel comfortable around the more conservative Spanish clergy to be found here.
The mayor of Murcia gets hassled by the protestors in the 92nd consecutive night of demonstrations against the route of the AVE into the city. Video here.
An alleged scammer advertises fake holiday rentals on the Costa del Sol. She’s now wanted by the police says The Olive Press here.
Photo gallery: eleven of Spain’s most beautiful villages with El País in English here.
The best four star hotel in Spain is in Seville, according to Top Turisme.
Elvas and Badajoz have a symbiotic arrangement. One is beautiful and the other is practical. Hey, it works well says La Crónica de Badajoz here.
‘If you also have a suggestion how to open the hyperlinks on a Mac you would make me even more happy, maybe ask it in the group’... I guess you know one downloads the BoT and then clicks on File and Preview in web browser. Think you told me this a while ago. Rgds, Colin.
Some Spanish jazz with Sérgio Quaresma here on YouTube (have we ever steered you wrong?).