Revista Latina

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DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-65-2010-888-126-145-EN – ISSN 1138 - 5820 – RLCS # 65 – 2010

Analysing the development of TV news programmes: from information to dramatization

Begoña Gutiérrez San Miguel, Ph.D. [C.V.] Professor at the Department of Sociology and Communication
University of Salamanca, US, Spain -

Maribel Rodríguez Fidalgo, Ph.D. [C.V.] Professor at the Department of Sociology and Communication
University of Salamanca, US, Spain -

María del Camino Gallego Santos [C.V.] Ph.D. Student at the Department of Sociology and Communication
University of Salamanca, US, Spain -

Abstract: The TV news programme is the backbone of all television networks, be they national, regional or local. These types of programmes have been changing over the time. The essence of the information is being modified and has adopted a new format. Based on these principles, this research analyses the evolution of the language used on the Spanish TV news programmes, from their origins until today. This research has been carried out in three different phases: late 1980s, the 1990s and recent years. These stages were thoroughly examined through surveys applied to representative samples of the population. The results showed that TV news programmes have been acquiring a changing narrative style throughout time: they began using an “objective” narrative, followed by a mediated type, and finally dramatized narrative which uses shocking visual content and aims to achieve audience’s sensibilization and identification with news’ protagonists. The spectacularization of information has become the identitary feature of the current TV news programmes as a response to the need of reaching higher audience ratings.

Keywords: Television; news programmes; news treatment; language development; spectacularization of information; manipulation.

Summary: 1. Introduction. 2. Methodology. 3. Results. 4. State of the art review. 4.1. The evolution of news treatment. 4.2. The production of news programmes. 4.3. Data, tables and questionnaires. 5. Conclusions. 6. Bibliography. 7. Notes.

Abstract’s translation by Francisco Moreno (University of Granada)
Article’s translation by Cruz Alberto Martinez Arcos (University of London)

1. Introduction
The purpose of this research is to review the state of the art of the Spanish TV news programmes.

The key objectives, defined in the form of hypotheses, are to determine whether the TV news programmes have been built as “windows” or “screens” of reality, i.e. whether the news are manipulated, whether the programmes offered the news and messages aseptically or whether the ideology pervaded and conditioned the message and the news. And finally what discourse is derived from it.

Based on the previous, we established as the focus of the research the comparison of news treatments in the various Spanish television networks, after which we found that the news programmes are dynamic:

- In the 60s and 70s the prevailing concepts were “window to reality” and relative “objectivity”.
- In the 80s and 90s there was a “manipulation” of the public opinion and a reductionism of values and cultural issues; the news were constructed as a dramatic spectacle, in which the processes of emotional identification based on morbid pictures are the formula used by large media groups to attract the audience.
- At present the information is a docudrama with beginning, middle and end, with protagonists and antagonists extolling the vision of the hero.

As conclusion we propose, among other issues, an audiovisual alphabetization and the creation of a mechanism for the external regulation of television networks.

This research was motivated by the concerns of the three researchers on the subject. An illiterate population is easier to handle and the dynamics of television networks are leading to that state, driven by the organic powers of television, and indirectly by the government institutions, through the manipulation of information and the slowing of culture.

2. Methodology
The research methods used are content transcription, formal analysis, and case studies. The study is definitely a multidisciplinary research coming from the fields of sociology, the contributions of Russian formalism, pragmatics and from cultural studies.

The reason to use this methodology is to assess the media from different points of view in order to gain richness of data and various sufficient elements to achieve full documentation, and addressing all the aspects of the subject of research. For example, with content transcription we analyzed the different news programmes over a number of years, obtaining detailed information on intentional-symbolic-narrative issues. Formal analysis gave us the constructive basis of the documents, with a confirmation and redundancy of the elements previously mentioned.

The selection of the samples for the three phases was always conducted in a university environment and in collaboration with students.

The first phase took place at the Faculty of Education of the University of Oviedo between the years from 1989 to 1995, when one of the researchers lectured pedagogy in that Faculty, with various questionnaires (about 1500 of which 300 were eventually systematized). The surveyed population was heterogeneous in terms of such variables as age, sex and social conditioning. In addition, focus groups were established.

The second phase was undertaken by the University of Oviedo (Faculty of Education) and the University of Salamanca (Audiovisual Communication and Faculty of Education). The sample was smaller and this time based on a homogeneous population, in terms of age and cultural status, since the survey was done with Ph.D. and M.A. students with different social structures and nationalities. A total of 100 students were surveyed from 1997 to 2002.

The third phase was conducted through content analysis of the news programmes of the different TV networks in October 2009, focusing on the news programmes of TVE-1 and Tele-5. Taking as the core sample the first edition of the TV new programmes for several reasons: in the first phase of observation we noted that the two programmes presented the greatest differences, not only in their structure, but also in the thematic and formal content. The first edition, although not the one with the largest audience, presents the main part of the most immediate information more elaborately and exhibits , with more detail, the difference in the treatment of news in the two television networks.

Establishing as comparison paradigm the treatment of information on a public network versus a private one.

The study (content analysis), therefore, was articulated on several levels:

1. Description of the different programmes: This first section specifies the date of transmission, as well as, the total number of news items that made up each of the news programmes.

2. Description of content: four variables involved in the construction of news programmes : a) fragmentation or serialization of news, b) personalization of information, c) hybridization of news, and d) selection of the importance by visual impact.

3. Results
The results confirmed that the Spanish TV news programmes are mediated by partisan ideological issues, that their the contents exhibit a clear trivialization because of a frivolization of life, and that the alphabetization of the population needs to be introduced from the bases (first years of education).

On the other side, this confirmation of a clear evolution of the narrative language of news programmes, from the journalistic chronicle as mode of newsletters reading to the dramatization of information with morbid images and to the actuality where the treatment is clearly fiction narrative; the movie-like constructed reality with a beginning, middle, and end using hooks baits of interest to the viewer, i.e. with a temporary detente as if they were dealing with fictional narratives.

4. State of the art review
The spine where all types of TV are articulated, whether national, regional or local, is the news programme. News programmes are the point of departure for the rest of the programs, with a significant percentage of home-produced programmes, films, talks shows, reality shows, documentaries, children and cultural shows, usually assigned to night slots, mostly from 1:00 am onwards.

These television formats or genres have been slowly diversifying and is very common to find institutional ads from the stations themselves, or gossip chronics on news programmes even when at the beginning of television the thematic was essentially informative.

On the same line, we pose the following research. The social, cultural and patrimonial information can be studded in two different forms in TV documents; as pure information, an event that happens in a particular place on a certain day, or by developing the content of the news.

It is important to highlight the cultural nature of the journalistic genres, since they are products of human creativity and hence its evolution (Bandrés, Cebrián Herreros). The concept of “cultural industry” feeds from all the research carried out in the so-called field of “cultural studies” (of Anglo-Saxon origin) where these issues are promoted. Authors such as Althusser, Hoggart, Williams, Hall, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Weber and Durkheim proposed that the products of mass culture tend to understand the meaning and place of popular culture within the experiences of different social groups.

They all agree that the global structures of society and the specific historical circumstances are of crucial importance to the functioning of the media.

The initial utopia of cultural studies was to learn more about the behaviours, needs and desires of consumers to facilitate the democratization of culture. Over time this imaginary has been weakened, and public cultural policies are being dislocated in the process of the industrialization of culture, ceding the witness to the market and to the media companies.

Nations have abdicated the production of public knowledge and the neglected opening the access of private knowledge to sectors interested in debating the public agenda (Bourdieu, Garcia, Canglini, Llorens Maluquer, Morin, etc.). And within this framework the current investigation is presented.

Various types of news programmes have been ranked by many researchers (Barroso and Garcia, Cebrián Herreros, Colombo, Gonzalez Requena, Wolf); the news and cultural-informative programmes (commonly and generically termed as such), docudramas, reality shows, features, chronicles, etc. News programmes in Spain are denominated the telediarios and/or informativos, and as anywhere else they constitute the backbone of information. The cultural-informative programmes are those that develop and deepen more the news. Examples of this type of programmes in the early days of television are: "A toda plana" (1964), “Hilo directo” (Direct thread) (1968), “Datos para un informe” (Data for a report), “Los reporteros” (The reporters), “Sucede” (It happens) or “35 milliones de Españoles” (35 Million Spaniards) (1974), and in recent years “Miradas 2” (Perspectives 2), “Informe seminal” (Weekly report), “Espejo Público” (Public Mirror). In this second group various sub-categories can be established according to the thematic presented.

The different typologies used to conduct this investigation were the ones proposed by Cebrián Herreros (1992), thus grouping the interpretative news (news, chronicles, reportages), dialogic news (interviews, talk shows, reality shows) and news opinion (editorial commentary and statement).

The information genres are organized as a reference system in constant evolution and change both in their structural form and narrative process, as it will be seen at the end of the present investigation.

The pedagogical nature of the paleo-television provided the State with an instrument of social control over the population and a teaching tool. The paleotelevision was characterized by cultural and popular education project, developing a benchmark television, documentary with educational, training and informative purposes. In short , the paleo-television acted as a medium of information and dissemination of culture and as a spectacle.

The discursive narrative found in the paleotelevision was always focused on teaching and educational functions through a reality, and some objective facts happening in the world. The traditional functions of public television networks were to inform, educate and entertain. Thus, the paleotelevision achieved the division of programmes by genre.

Public television was a large mosaic, with a very diverse televisual offer, whose main element was the news programmes, the noticiarios. In this genre the State television found a political vehicle to communicate with the viewer.

With the advent of the transition, there was a new context in which the television offer was aiming for two objectives . On one hand, there was the desire to reflect the new imaginary of democratic Spain on the small screen, and on the other hand, there was the desire to create policies aimed to encourage the production of series of international quality.

A new era in television derived from the deregulation of public television and the emergence of private channels broke through in the late 1980s under the title of neotelevisión. Its discourse broke with the pedagogical and unidirectional sense showed by traditional paleotelevision. The new context, developed by authors like Casetti and Odin, continually challenged the viewer, demanding interactivity and conviviality. This new discourse acquired a new mainly socializing function over its potential audience: “to attract and sweet-talk with emotional stories, from an essentially seductive perspective, to the viewer who tries to contact for the first time an specific media representation” [1]. Gordillo (2004) establishes two trends in the televised discourse: the recycling (relations of intertextuality) and hybridization of genres (transtextuality relations).

There was an abandonment of the referential and documentary television, in favour of a new type of spectacular television conforming to the tastes that the public supposedly demanded: it speculates with a daily-experiential-emotive reality, which is also spectacularized, and treated with theatricality inherent in the television code.

The traditional genre boundaries were blurred and hybridization of contents and the mixture of formats occurred. This blending of content has led to a change in the discourse of television, which is moving away from the model reproducer of reality and gets closer to a pre-formative model of reality. The news programmes were also affected by this substantial change.

Two large content groups can be highlighted in neotelevision: information and fiction. Imbert (2001) notes that there is a degradation of the information category: the use of journalistic techniques and genres for the purposes of spectacularity, through the dramatization and trivialization and the production of a reality parallel to the "objective" reality, undoubtedly due to wastage of the latter. This resulted in the emergence of new narratives based on the spectacle and fiction of everyday life, accompanied by the hybridization between genres (documentary and fiction) and confusion between categories (real/ simulation, attractive/repulsive) [2].

At the time of neotelevision it became evident the disappearance of the separation between news and fiction, between interpretation and facts, between spectacle and reality, between event and commentary, and between reproduction and valuation. The ideology is the core value around which the major media groups organize the news treatment (Aguaded, 2008).

The manipulation of information was clear with the results obtained from the samples taken in different years (on a population of 250 people in each case). The first case coincided with the Socialist party’s third rise to power in 1989 when, according to results obtained, state networks were ideologically inclined towards one side against the other TV networks which highlighted opposite proposals. Almost ten years after the Popular party’s arrival to power, the public television coinciding with the beginning of this mandate are considered aseptic when compared against “Canal Plus” and “La 5” which raised their voices against the governmental policies. And again in 2009 the public believed that both public and private television channels systematically manipulate the information.


4.1. The evolution in information treatment
Reaching the current panorama has involved a clear evolution in the treatment of news and the homogenization of news in all of the TV networks. Currently, with the process of "globalization" the individuality and identity of each news programme have been running out up to the point of incorporating a fairly standard model.

The beginnings of television, and perhaps due to its inherent novelty, were marked by a treatment of news inclined to the ideal of “objectivity” (De Pablos, 2008). An event was shown as it happened, of course always mediated by ideology.

In December 1959 the President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, visited Spain. TVE inaugurated with that visit large informational coverage. That trip to Spain, whose dictatorial regime had isolated the country from the civilized world, marked an important support for Franco’s regime.

The 1960s was a decade of economic development and the black and white TV sets came to be common appliances in Spanish homes. The new premises Prado del Rey were opened in Madrid, where the first programmes and series were produced (“La casa de los Martinez” [The Martinez’s home], “Historias para no dormir” (Stories to keep us awake), and “Cesta y puntos” [Basketball] among others) and the second TVE network, popularly known as the “UHF”, was launched.

In the early days of television news programmes in Spanish television were constructed as bulletins to be read on camera, and gradually footage video was incorporated. The news soon were acquired from the Eurovision network and the creation of a network of correspondents, which gave new impetus to such programmes. The television constitutes an open window (a term created by Hutchinson in 1946) to reality and through it all the spectators were able to reconstruct the most significant event that happened.

The confusion between image and reality was one of the main features in these early days. Piaget, for instance, pointed out that when studying the behaviours of children that they did not distinguish between fantasy and reality until older ages. And that is adaptable to all matters related to the image. Just consider the case of the first film screenings in which the public reacted terrified by the arrival of the train to the station of Saint Lazare, confusing fiction with reality. The same applied to television. The viewers considered the first broadcasts as part of the reality without being able to discriminate between fiction and reality.

As it can be seen in the table below, a high percentage of viewers, even today, consider much more real what they see on TV news programmes. This is based on a survey applied in 1994 to a sample of 300 people of different ages and cultural orbits.


The information has been known for long as the “window open” to the world, but it should really be replaced by the term “screen” for two reasons: it is a space that projects a discourse and is an element that masks the reality or at least part of it. The subjective is imposed on the objective.

Every perception already involves a first level of interpretation of reality. TV production, through the codes of the audiovisual media, involves a second level of subjective interpretation. And finally the treatment of news in itself, going from the editorial team and passing by the locution and finally the broadcasting teams, suffer a process, which makes it even more relative. What the news programmes really report is the vision their authors have about these reports.

Hence we speak of a screen instead of a window, since the second term refers to a more objective representation of the event represented.

“Six honoured servants taught me everything I know. Their names are: how, when, where, what, who and why”, said Rudyard Kipling when speaking of his journalistic formula. That formula remains valid for the elaboration of news and for their analysis, with special emphasis on the “why” to understand their meaning.

The objectivity of the information has been treated by different researchers, which highlight this fallacy from the moment you start to study television (Baudrillard, Brown, Ferrés, Herreros López, Matilla, McQuail, Schiller, among others) since the very constructive mechanism cancels it. Any information or discourse becomes an opinion from the moment of content selection, code selection, and the creation of stereotypes, all of which denies the reality since they simplify or deform it based on cultural conditionings derived from games of interest (Ferres, 1994).

The dominant televised discourse approaches the individuals as spectators who receive a series of news, but not as active or participatory persons.

The viewer is isolated from the social and spatial environment and receives the information seeking to reassure the individual as a consumer. Objectivity and impartiality should not be confused (Herreros López, 2004), and therefore, with indifference towards basic values in the operation of television, since both words can be traced back to issues such as the expression of different points of view held by various social actors, with which (if they complied with the basic principles of the General Administration Council of Spanish Television approved in 1981) these terms should be taken into consideration because “respecting the impartiality requires news treatment similar to equivalent public acts” (p. 311), or topics so obvious as the recruiting of sources (De Pablos, 1999), which seems to be neglected issues on today’s television.

After a few years, television reached a wide circulation and the image acquired a weight that turns into a generator of reality, reversing the initial situation; the image no longer reproduces the reality, but it is reality what tries to look like the image (Ferrés) after the treatment given by the media.

In 1990, just before the start of the Gulf War, Baudrillard (1991) predicted that the war would not occur. After the war, he claimed to have been right: “The Gulf War did not take place”. Thus, also the Western media were accomplices in presenting the war in real time, through the recycling of war images to propagate the idea that the US (and allies) were fighting the Iraqi army. But Saddam Hussein did not use its military capability (the Iraqi Air Force) and its political-military power was not weakened (the Kurdish insurgency against Iraq was suppressed at the end of the war). So little changed in Iraq: the enemy stayed undefeated, the victors were not victorious, and therefore there was no war.

According to his position, the US was committed to the illusion of fighting, just like the mind of the player is immersed in the videogame (example of hyper-reality), where the experience deceives the conscience making it believe that it is an actor of something that is not happening. While the battle may have been real, only few people on the other side of the world experienced it. The “war” that was broadcast by television, and therefore, the war as understood by most people, was not real.

Some critics accuse Baudrillard of instant revisionism, of a denial of the physical action of the war (part of his denial of reality, in general).

Since the late twentieth century the news programmes, once again, give a turn trying to reach the viewer and get a higher level of audience. The international news section is fundamentally constituted by the conflicts ravaging the world. The attention of the public is reclaimed with lurid images, and even the use of reproaches and lures that appeal to the sensibility of the spectator (“the images that you are about to see may hurt your sensibility”), and in doing so causing the desired effect. The news were full of destroyed and fragmented bodies, and the camera was introduced next to the wounds and the dismembered parts to increase the drama with the intention of sensibilize the viewer as much as possible. See for example the treatment of news about the war in Bosnia.


Source: Author’s creation

The public began to get used to this kind of images and the audience started to decrease, so the news programmes, following their tendency to innovate, started to use another type of claim that was first used with the news treatment of “the attack to the twin towers” of New York in 2001 (although this kind of treatment was already being used before).

Once past the initial shock, the dramatization was performed with heroic characters as protagonists, with their opponents, a narrative approach, a conflict and an end, i.e. with the identification of the characters like it was a film or the diegesis of a narrative. The fictionalization of reality in search of the hero.

Just as a decade earlier had witnessed the spectacle of the dismemberment of bodies, now the movie of reality was constructed through the dramatic identification.

In the news, the fire-fighters in New York were the protagonists of this event, and they showed the tension felt by the family until their hero came home. And all of this happened within the 20 seconds that lasted the news clip.

The narrative style based on dramatic fiction and reality is present in all networks. Today the information is not built without some character as a prototype or stereotype playing certain roles.

To this we must add an advertising campaign of the TV network’s own programming, as a self-promotion of the news, for example: "The reporters of “A fondo” (In-depth) will develop this theme in the evening programme" and here is the informative videoclip.


Source: Author’s creation

4.2. The production of news programmes
The discourse is the main formula adopted by most news programmes once the myths of the informative objectivity or television as an open window to reality have been overcame. Every time a news item becomes an opinion, an ideology is sold.

The treatment of news, therefore, arises within these parameters so that the viewer sees the news as:

A) As a reality show.

B) As a structured text.

C) As an exercise of expression.

The discourse is built upon a reality and with specific codes. This is the organization of disparate elements from the environment, manipulating it and giving absolute priority to the criterion of spectacularity.

González Requena (1989), Bourdieu (1997), García Avilés (1999), Prado (1999, 2003) and Imbert (2003), among many other authors have focused their media studies precisely on the analysis of the news discourse from the perspective of the spectacle, providing concepts and lines of research on what we all already known as the television of spectacle: the infoshow or infotainment.

In this sense, “the infoshow macro-genre includes in its formula elements of information, fiction and entertainment genres. It represents a new way to present information that is spectacularized in its forms“ (Prado, 1999: 9).

Therefore, the hybridization of genres is clear and we are able to differentiate “between the hybridization that occurs when the entertainment is part of the information (infoshow) and when the information becomes part of the entertainment (infotainment)” (Luzón and Ferrer, 2007: 139).

Today as a result of this TV as spectacle we witness a series of transformation processes that affect what we can consider as the main identity features that characterize the news programmes which is materializing into a transformation “from the objective to the subjective, from the rational to the emotional, from the collective to the individual, from the macro-social to the micro-social, from informing to ultimately telling stories” (Imbert, 2003: 93).

All these aspects can be summarized in the so-called “info entertainment or infotainment” or as Lozano (2004) would say the “news show” that currently feeds the news programmes of all TV networks both public and private, to a greater or lesser extent.

The news programmes of the various TV stations use the sensationalism, understood as the ability to arouse emotions in the viewer or to provoke a reaction in the sensory system of the person (Uribe & Gunter 2007).

Moreover, the fight of the television networks to reach the highest levels of audience has come to impose the “anything goes” principle, leading to a modification of information that, as Sara Ortells (2009) indicates, could be defined as “the end of the conception of information as an asset to become a purely commercial product; a process that in turn influences the change of the definition of the cultural industries”.

As a result of this fight for the audiences the major media groups impose the economical interests above information interests, at the expense of quality and rigorous content. And within this context we cannot forget that news programmes do not escape such economic criteria particularly taking into account that, as Pestano Rodriguez (2008) indicates, “the news programmes have a special consideration in economic terms, since they constitute a passband between programming slots, from morning to afternoon, from afternoon to night, and so on, which are authentically differentiated programmes that must retain the audience inherited and take it to the next slot; it is not surprising then that, in the struggle for the sale of a essential product like audience ratings, the advertising before, during or after the news programme is more expensive than in other adjacent programming.

Based on these aspects and in order to deepen what has already been termed as the spectacularization of the information, we provide the analysis on the construction of information in the news programmes. This analysis has produced a number of parameters about news construction and that refer to the following questions reflecting very significant facts:

1. The fragmentation or serialization of the news is a general feature of all networks, splitting the news in several days a week providing small information capsules every day as a form of soap operas.

2. The personalization of information. The characters take a central role before the subject of information that is relegated to the background, building the story in first person, personalizing the emotion, with feelings and the introduction of the tragedy.

3. The hybridization of the news that comes from the hand of the previous parameters: the fragmentation and personalization of news. The mixing of the format will result in dramatized documental stories, as if they were talk shows.

4. It seems that the criteria for the selection of news comes more from the importance of visual impact rather than from the subject of the news. This fact has already been raised years ago since the era of neotelevision. Cortes said (1999: 23) that “the television offer became a big supermarket that mixed fiction with information, and turned the entertainment and advertising into a whole in which differentiating all fields is almost impossible”.

The information is basically built using a clear and direct language, with a very short duration with which the synthesis is evident but this does not mean that there is a lack of ideological baggage. The futile simplification and the superficial treatment of the news, which do not appeal to the rational but to the emotional, targets the mass and heterogeneous audience with a minimum common denominator in terms of culture, as Ramonet (1998) and others had already indicated. A high percentage of news is broadcast due to the spectacularization around the idea of the dramatized narration (Ferrés, Bandrés). The spectacularity can be shown in several ways:

A) Dramatization presenting the news in a conflictive way: some NBC technicians say that “every TV news should be structured as a mini-drama, with a beginning, middle and an end”. The dramatization involves the personalization of information. The search for the human face gives emotion to the information and therefore transforms it into a spectacle –the coldness or distance used to report the attacks to the Twin Towers on September 11 was subsequently compensated with the personalization of very particular cases, whose aim was the identification with the viewer.

B) Sensationalist and morbid exploitation often connected with pain and death situations. The camera takes on a voyeuristic perspective, becoming an accomplice of the human degradation, pain, morbid feelings, transgressing the normality and confusing the novelty of the format with the subject and the treatment chosen. In the editorial teams of the television networks there is a valuation of the news with more elements of this type to attract the audience.

C) The music is often used to enhance the emotional and to approximate the information to the fiction drama. From the moment the information is constructed as a dramatization this resource is used as soundtrack. The music gives a type of ritual and drama to the news and transports the viewer to the realm of the symbolic (Brandrés and others 2000).

D) The presenter. This figure is sometimes also used to reconfirm the dramatic goal –one just has to remember Rosa María Mateo removing her glasses to enhance her words and get the viewer's attention. The journalist in front of the camera, as formal resource, implies credibility and authority and therefore serves to give veracity and authenticate the news.

E) The profusion of visual and sound effects along with the almost vertiginous pace provide amenity and fascination to the news programmes (Galán Cubillo, 2008). Sometimes establishing the assembly of the news so that the first five seconds are full of striking visual and acoustic elements –like an exploding bomb, plane crashing, noise, etc. The sound resources, such as voice tone and the music, connect with the viewer's sensitivity reinforcing the dramatic nature.

The spectacularity is a double-edged sword since it gives more interest, as a motivating element, but also produces a loss of depth and complexity in the news (like in the news about the Gulf War, for example).

Increasingly entertainment shows and news programmes get intertwined and mixed since there is an explicit intention to promote the spectacular, the spectacle, what is outside the normal and the usual, and therefore for the purposes of entertainment.

All this lead to certain values charged of ideology that shows and hides, for example hiding a fact makes the explicit fact to acquire foundation; the maximum welfare of capitalism comes hand in hand with the concealment of poverty or its presentation as something natural, which is the best way not to challenge the system (Ferrés).

The decoding, evaluation and analysis of the data obtained serve as the basis for the production of the results and conclusions drawn.

4.3. Data, Tables and Questionnaires
It is important to note that the data provided below is part of a wider research whose object of study was the news programmes broadcast by the 6 national networks (TVE, Antena 3, Cuatro, Tele 5, and La Sexta). In light of the results of this study, we provide here data obtained from the public TV network (TVE) and the private TV broadcaster Tele 5, based on the following methodological reasons:

Content analysis was conducted on a sample comprising a week of broadcast of Noticias Telecinco (Telecinco News) and the first edition of Telediario (TV-journal) TVE-1, from the 19th to 23rd of October 2009. The sample coincides with a series of national political corruption scandals, and the approval of the general state budgets, as well as the various accidents and crime related to the abduction of the fishing boat “El Alakrana”.

The following criteria were used to classify the different pieces of news or parts of the news programmes:

A) Themes

A.1) Politics. We considered a piece of political thematic all those event involving political actors, be they of a national or international level. The involvement of any political entity in the piece will immediately classify it as political news dominating over the other possibilities.

A.2) Economy. All news related to economic issues that do not involve political actors.

A.3) accidents and crime and courts. All the news revolving around an accident and crime at the national level, whether natural disasters, traffic accidents, or attacks.

A.4) International. Any news event, except from political and economic issues, that occurs outside the national borders, like for example attacks, natural disasters, the releasing of a political prisoner, etc.

A.5) Culture and society. News related to cultural subjects, scientific discoveries, cinema, art in general, news characteristic of the tabloids.

A.6) Environment. News related to earth’s protection.

A.7) Weather forecasts: Any piece in which the central focus is the weather, except from catastrophes.

B) Formal Aspects of news (Peralta)

B.1) TV News with off or VTR (Video Tape Recorder).

B.2) News statements also known as capsules.

B.3) TV news with computer graphics to enhance their explanation.

B.4) News recurring to live connections.

B.5) Television news without off or set.

B.6) Block of brief news, consisting of several short news.

B.7) News without pictures, including the initial speeches and all those pieces in which the anchor has the support of the prompter to present the news but is not covered by images. Is not about intros that give way to a video, but independent news that do not have any supporting images.

B.8) False Live connection. Simulates a live connection that has previously been recorded before broadcast.

4.3.1. Total broadcast volume of all sections: number of news and percentage
TVE-1 is the network that has offered more news on the sample week with a total of 154 compared to 120 from Tele-5. For sections or topics, Politics continues to be the section with the most number of news on the public broadcaster with 38, followed by Society with 36, and International on third place with 26, accidents and crime with 25, Economy with 17, Weather with 4 and finally Environment with only 3. However, the panorama offered by Tele-5 is very different. accidents and crime is the theme category that ranks first with 47 news, followed by Society with 31, International with 13, Politics and Weather with 11, Economy with only 6 news, and in the last place is Environment with 1 news item.


4.3.2. Number of news items by section and network 

As we can see, Tele-5 gives priority to news about accidents and crime and Society, compared to news about Politics or Economy that hardly have any presence in this space. Meanwhile TVE continues with its emphasis on political and economic news, but also with a considerable increase in social news. 





4.3.3. Comparison of percentages of thematic sections in a decade 




1999 *





20,4 %









Accidents and crime




















* “Así se lo hemos contado” (This is the way we have told you so). An analysis of the content of TV news programmes: the framing of social reality. Humanes, M. L. University of Salamanca

The results of the study (we have only taken data from TVE and Tele-5, although the investigation also studies with the news programmes from L2, Antena-3 and Canal Plus), undertaken at the University of Salamanca ten years ago, allow us to compare the evolution of the presence or increase of thematic sections in the two television networks.

We noted Tele-5 showed a significant increase in the integration of news of accidents and crime, almost by 25%, and of Society, with a 6'43%. Most accidents and crime covered in Tele-5 addresses issues like burglary, organized gangs, robberies and assaults on homes and gender violence. On the other hand, TVE has produced news programmes based on political information, almost 20% more than a decade ago, but especially news of social nature have gained presence in the schedule grid of public television, up 4% over other thematic sections. 

4.3.4. Percentage of weekly subjects


This graph confirms the data previously discussed. The private network barely focuses its interests in issues related to economics (budget approval, crisis in the car sector, etc.) or National politics (like the Gürtel case, and the regional financing model), and instead places its emphasis on social issues like the coexistence of people, drug addiction problems, bullfighting issues, or the cinema. The sections about accidents and crime and Society are the backbone of the news programmes of Tele-5. Despite social issues have acquired a greater role in informative spaces TVE, politics and economics, along with international news, continue to be the vertebral column of the news programme. The increase of the duration of the programme has made possible for cultural and social issues to occupy a prominent place on the last part of the programme.

4.3.5. Results on the construction of information

A) Fragmentation or Serialization of news. This is a general feature in all the networks. They break down the news in several weekdays and thus providing small information capsules every day, like a telenovela format.

Thus in Tele-5 of the 120 news that comprised the total sample, 10 were fragmented, which is 8.33%. 6 news items were about accidents and crime, 3 of politics and only 1 about economics. It is worth noting that the news about the corruption in the elected council was serialized over four days with information capsules about the per capita income, and testimonies of the villagers. Other cases were the hijacking of the fishing boat “El Alakrana”, and the arrest of Albanian gangs operating in several Spanish cities.

In this respect the results of TVE are similar to those of Tele-5. Of the 154 news, 16 were fragmented, representing 10.38%, where political news are in first place with 6 news, followed by the economy with 3, and in third place the International, accidents and crime and Society sections with 2 news itmes, and finally the weather with just 1 piece of information.



B) Personalization of information: The characters in the news take centre stage compared to the information object that was relegated to the background. Sometimes the construction of the news is made in first person. The personalization of the emotiveness is produced with the feelings, and with the tragedy. It seeks audience’s solidarity with the anonymous character, who has become the victim or protagonist of the news event.

Tele-5 personalizes many of its news in the blocks devoted to accidents and crime or social information. We found that from 120 news, 13 (10.83%) had anonymous people as protagonists; while 7 (5.83%) were presented in first person. News with names and surnames that narrate their tragedy; like the case of Nazaret who tells viewers, from the hospital and over several days, how her mother’s ex partner set the house on fire which killed her mother and injured her badly. Or the tragic story of a father who tells the viewers about the groom's violence towards his daughter with severe beatings, showing the physical scars on the body of his daughter. The remaining 6 news (4.16%) were personalized in such issues like theft, rape, patricide, and health problems,.

TVE personalizes its news but in some cases it does so with familiar and famous characters like the case of singers Bisbal or Biurko or the actress Carmen Maura and the Princes of Asturias Norman Foster and David Attemborough. We found that from 154 news, 12 (7.79%) were personalized with subjects as diverse as the launch of a clothing brand by some prisoners, organ transplants, or the point system card for fishermen.

C) Hybridization of genres: the fragmentation and personalization of news have resulted in a mixture of news producing in small docudramas, talk shows, and reports primarily.

Undoubtedly Tele-5 is the network that has introduced new formats in the presentation of news. The first person narrative of the news is constructed as small talkshows through the testimonies of people. Thus we find 7 news items with topics such as the experience in a satanic cult, the treatment or overcoming of breast cancer, and violence against women. In addition, Tele-5 provides many news about thefts, burglaries, house robberies through pictures released by security cameras, the Civil guard, the Catalan Police, which reconstructs the actions and presents them as a docudrama. At the same time, it offers complementary news on a subject which is not covered with a single story. Examples are several news about accidents, which examine the causes, the conditions of the wounded, the conditions of the roads, the number of accidents in that time, reports of possible negligence, etc.

Tele-5 also introduces the reportage format, which sometimes is advertised as investigative reports (use of hidden cameras), although in reality it should be labelled as pseudo-investigative reports because the issues are not transcendental (the porn industry in Hungary, the dangers of living on the street, the 24-hours repairs, or family planning), and do not provide any evidence of novelty, nor use the right techniques. TVE however is the network that uses the traditional news format the most. Although it also introduces some new features like the self-promotion of the network’s programming. Examples of this are the different news offered in the program “Tengo una pregunta para usted” (I got a question for you). It also uses complementary news for some subjects, especially those related to the economy and in some cases, a report on specific issues, like the 20th anniversary of the granting of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Camilo Jose Cela.

D) Visual impact in the selection of themes


1 Economy,  2 Politics,  3 International, 4 Culture and society, 5 Accidents crime and trials, 6 Environment,  7 Weather.


4.3.6. News format (number of news and percentage)




58 - 37,56%

46 – 38,33%


56 - 36,36%

18 ­­-­ 15%

Capsules (Total)

8 - 5,19%

2 - 1,66%

Live Connection

30 - 19,48%

38 - 31’66%

False Live Connection



Brief news


24 - 20%

News without image



Infographic news



News programmes often combine different types of news. Due to the great volume of information handled by the editorial staff of TV news programmes, they opt to use the news reading or the news-reading covered by video to accommodate more brief news and at the same time energize the order of the programme.

The video is the most widely used format because it allows in-depth information and provide testimony and explanations in more elaborate pieces. The characteristic of immediacy is found in the live connections at the scene. This allows updating the news and offering more credibility in the information to the viewer.

If we look the data, Tele-5 uses the video formula to produce most of the news. We can detail that there are several ways: on 7 news, before introducing the video, the presenter introduces some small images about the information that will be detailed in the video. In the remaining 39 the presenter only reads the intro that gives way to the video. The same applies to live connections. In 17 news the live connection is preceded by the presenter’s intro, on 12 occasions the connection, besides being preceded by the intro, is complemented by a video, and finally on 9 news, the intro gives way to some videos about the information that is complemented with the live connection and with a video that summarizes all the previous.

Meanwhile TVE-1 also uses the presentation covered in video on many occasions, 56 news, to give dynamism to the program and to offer as much information as possible. News of statements that reinforce the videos with testimonials are used to a lesser extent, in this case in just 8 news.

As in Tele-5 the transition to the VTR video can be done in several ways. In 6 news the presentations covered in video preceded the news, while the 52 remaining news the presenter’s intro is what gives way to the video.

Live connections are a fundamental part in the model of TVE’s news programmes. In 16 cases the live connection only supplied the information of the correspondent or the special messenger sent to the scene. But in 14 news, the live connection was complemented by a VTR.

4.3.7. Formal aspects of news
One of the characteristics evaluated in this research and which is part of the entertainment and spectacle surrounding the news programmes, is the use of computer graphics, labelling, and post-production effects. A clear example can be seen in the live connections. In Tele-5 we analyzed a total of 38 news representing 31.66%. On TVE-1 live connections were 30 and 19,48%. The aesthetics of live connections has changed. Before the journalist remained in a particular shot for some determined number of seconds and the live connection was covered with tails, but now the distribution of the shot is different. The reporter stays on the foreground for a few seconds and the screen is divided by a wipe in which the plane of the journalist is placed in the bottom left, leaving the rest for the tails that accompany the news.

Society and culture news and some reports bring new resources from the infotainment genre. The images are accompanied by music, lighting effects, the slowdown of shots, transitions and visual effects chaining the images to get more dynamic pieces of information.

These resources provide the journalist greater creativity. One example is the news offered by TVE-1 on 19 October 2009 on the eroticism and desire housed by the Thyssen Museum. The game blurs, the merger of several types of music evoked the desire and eroticism that the journalist wanted to show in line with the sample of paintings.

Another example is the report offered by Tele-5 on 23 October 2009 about the porn industry in Hungary. Suggestive close-ups of actresses, nudes, extreme close-ups of mouths and eyes, all accompanied by insinuating music and shots simulating a filming.

The use of images from other sources that are not their own is best appreciated in Tele-5. As discussed above, this network offers plenty of information on armed robbery and violent acts that are covered by cameras from official sources such as the Ministry of Interior and State Security Forces and which reinforce the dramatic or spectacular nature of the information.

Finally, in the information construction on the news programmes, the structure is the tool that distributes content through the pattern. We can firstly find an information structure that is different in the two networks under investigation.

TVE-1 establishes a structure with these elements: Headline / Cover / Summary / Development / Close. It establishes a fairly linear development of content. Meanwhile Tele-5 is more innovative in comparison to TVE-1. It starts directly by with the cover / Headlines / Summary / Development / Summary (II) / Development (II) / Close. On several occasions, news advanced in the following summaries are not developed later in the programme.

There are two more structures to be added to the first one. The narrative structure that regulates the sequentiality of the informative story and the dramatic structure provided by the introduction, the development, the conflict-climax, and the conclusion of the story. The combination of both structures makes the informative narrative similar to fiction narratives: it produces alterations in the shots and sequences that reveal the inverted structure, typical of fiction cinema. An example is found in the most shocking and spectacular images opening the news programme and that subsequently will be put back in the order of the narrative sequence when the story is developed.

A new form of narration can be seen on the news items that constitute the programme. The search for the most shocking stories, the most spectacular images, the dramatization of stories to achieve solidarity with the audience.

Tele-5 takes as flag the news accidents and crime that shock the viewer, through descriptive and even violent images of the accidents and crime. Feelings and tragedy are personalized, and political or economical event, which are covered in depth by TVE-1, are relieved to the background. Its use of spectacular is less, but focuses its share of entertainment on more social and cultural news seasoned with music, and visual transitions and effects to make them more attractive to the viewer.

5. Conclusions
The media is having a boomerang effect on the current population, a boomerang that catalyses and meditates their way of living. The media companies consider the audience as a test subject for their media experiments. The audience does not demand any specific programmes but consumes the products on the market because there is no other choice. Because the large economic groups are in turn linked with the political power, the representation of the world is therefore clearly mediated in favour of one ideology or another and, thus, there is a great control of the information.

The totally of the media is currently in the hands of large communication groups that are politically or ideologically linked. And the news programmes remain to be the backbone of television networks.

News programmes try to encourage certain opinions among the audience, and these visions are very different depending on the place of broadcasting. The underlying ideology is what modifies reality.

The spectator is treated as a subject incapable of understanding the messages and therefore is instructed and his thinking is directed towards a political-ideological field –or another field depending on the groups producing them. An evident issue is that the neutrality that emerges from treating the spectator as an intelligent being is, nowadays, a utopia. The media groups presuppose that the spectators do not have critic abilities, which makes them assume the media discourses to be true, without making any valuations or appreciations of the messages. An uncritical population is evidently more manageable.

Another fundamental factor that is directly related with these issues is the fight for the audience’s attention. The programming is designed to achieve the greatest possible number of spectators by confining content to the quest of discursive values that can reach the largest possible number of spectators.

In this way some other relevant questions rise: Should audiences be the ones to decide the programming? Is it necessary to make a profound revision of the media? Is it just about economic profitability? And if so, where are the fundamental rights of information, the freedom of the press, and other rights that are presented as the structural basis for the operation of the media?

Instead of talking about the ‘society of information’, it is necessary to talk about the ‘entertainment society’. This power is not the power to do something, like the political power, but the power to tell stories, the media power.

Bourdieu, for instance, criticizes the self-complacent image of the journalistic profession, and the scarce or null acceptation of the criticism, as it occurs in other ‘fields’ (like culture, arts, science, etc.), and even the internal criticism, between different points of view.

The analysis of the profession, the self-criticism and the transformation of its “symbolic capital” describe the sociology of the action that leads to the reintegration of journalism into democracy. All of this should make us ponder about the concept and implications involved in this term in order to evaluate the current situation of the media.

Bourdieu has denounced the degradation of the journalistic profession and contents through new censorship practices, based on the defence of editors’ interests by the directors and editors in chief promoted to such positions “as a result of their opportunism and submission”.

He also demands a journalistic profession with civic roots, aimed to promote the discussion of ideas, and fight the hijacking of the media and free forums of expression made by the marketing corporations. Although he recognizes that the labour condition of the professional journalists is weakening, he also understands that it is this circumstance what contributes to subtract independence to the practice of loyalty towards the company rather than to the society, because the latter may cost him or her employment. Because for the companies the success of journalism is strictly related with audience “ratings” and the sale of copies, this new scale of values has been assumed by journalists, who have abandoned his or her critical spirit as observers of the truth. [3]

TV programming is configured, therefore, with an obvious cultural softening. They say that contents are sometimes charged with the ideal of matching the decreasing population with the intention of reaching a larger number of audience.

The concept of (misunderstood) globalization has been developed looking for standardization, consciously or unconsciously. Everything is entertainment, everything has a place and nothing is subject to values based on issues essentially related to the human rights every individual is entitled to have. The culture is denigrated in favour of futile entertainment.

This study proves that TV programming is clearly standardized and homogenized by the cultural reduction, which trivializes life and customs.

This panorama leads to a clear infantilization of the population thanks to the conception of the programming from news to advertising, providing an unreal frame of reference. The principle of fantasy or pleasure is opposed to the principle of reality. The pathology that psychologists talk about is evident in the model the media aims to transmit.

The reality is the realm of life in which the human adult moves and part of this world is made up of fantasies, but this is not the only one. The adult has to base its modus vivendi in the principle of reality.

There are failures and limitations, disease and death. But the media tend to promise and show an easy life, in which young people are the only representatives of this model where instant happiness reigns thereby tending to perpetuate eternally the child. This speaks of a clear illiteracy.

The ideological control gradually leads the population to the most absolute simplicity and reductionism, to confuse fiction with reality, and to bring to life behaviours involving among other things, negative discrimination in matters of sex.

If it is indeed true that the forces of technology -allied with the forces of economics and the laws of profit and competition- threaten the culture, what can be done to counteract this movement?

From the cultural parameters, it is clear that education is the priority, but avoiding the super protectionism. A literate, cultured and critical population is a rich, dynamic, restless and active population in all aspects.

Another important issue is the proposal for the creation of an alternative platform for the criticism and challenging of the media. Many voices are raised in favour of this: Morin, Bourdieu, and the social scientist Emir Sader, for example, warned that the large private media exert a brutal totalitarianism, through which they condition the governments to act in favour of the interests of the small screen, and those who refuse to do so face very strong discrimination.

A large number of researchers from various academic fields proposed the establishment of some alternative mechanism to the media that is able to alert, at least, about the damage posed by the current situation to the viewer, as a consequence of the lack of criticism and self-criticism exhibited by the these media.

An platform independent of the government, not a Advisory Committee, which would be able to establish the mechanisms of criticism, as it occurs in the rest of the areas of life, be they cultural, social, or scientific. Media programming needs to be structured regardless of the audience as the only index to measure the alleged quality.

Returning to the idea of Plato who said there was a sharp distinction between the world of the senses and the world of intellect, one can only have opinions about the first, but one may have knowledge, and a justified true belief about the second. Precisely for that reason, the intelligible world is the real world, and the sensible world is only provisionally real, like the shadows on the wall of a cave. Is it still possible to be reached?

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Gutiérrez San Miguel, Begoña et al (2010): "Analysing the development of TV news programmes: from information to dramatization", in Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 65, pages 126 to 145. La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands): La Laguna University, retrieved on ___th of ____ of 2_______, from
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-65-2010-888-126-145-EN

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