Media abroad: Spain

Immigration in Spain, though massive, has come late. Spanish media — as the country at large — still has to catch up with the phenom.

Unlike North European countries, which have tightened immigration policies, Spain has courted foreign labor to compensate plunging fertility rates. Legal immigrants have mushroomed from 920,000 in toto in 2000 to 2.75 million in 2005,per government statistics. Others put the total nowadays at 4 million.

Some African immigrants found ready employment as “top manta” bootlegged DVD street vendors, spiking Spain’s piracy levels.

“Spanish authorities thought it was better for illegal immigrants to sell bootlegged discs than pursue other illicit activities,” said Antonio Guisasola, prexy of Spanish music trade org Promusicae.

Often co-producing Latin American pics, Spain’s film industry works regularly with Latin Americans.

Spaniard Manuel Gutierrez Aragon’s latest pic, “Virgin Rose,” toplines Cuban Jorge Perugorria. Vet thesps Hector Alterio and Federico Luppi live in Spain. Fellow Argentine Ricardo Darin is a thinking woman’s sex symbol there.

Spain’s usually left-leaning cineastes are increasingly tackling immigration. Standout pics include Chema de la Pena and Gabriel Velazquez’s multi-story “Sud Express,” with one gritty immigrant strand, and Manuel Martin Cuenca’s searching contempo relationship fresco “Hard Times.”

The San Sebastian Festival launched a Cinema in Motion Maghreb co-prod forum last September.

TV coverage, and the integration of African immigrants, repping 24% of migrants, are another matter.

Spanish law merely requires non-discrimnation. Media groups do not run affirmative action employment initiatives. Madrid’s regional government created an Immigration Council as late as 2005.

“Now there’s a proliferation of media initiatives targeting immigration,” said Council spokesman Jose Suarez. Their effectiveness on TV is questionable. Last July TVE 2 launched a weekly half-hour immigrants’ magazine “With Any Accent.”

Pubcaster Telemadrid airs a weekly news round-up “TN Without Frontiers” covering Latin America, the Maghreb and Asia, plus “Latino,” a Latin American news/lifestyle mag.

But these shows are buried in nooks and crannies — “Accent” and “Latino” at breakfast-time Sundays, Latino” late night on Saturdays.

Most Spanish immigrants have low to no disposable income.

“There aren’t more programs for immigrants because they’re not a consumer target,” says one analyst. Spain has had only one black mainstream TV newscaster/gameshow host: Cameroon-born Francine Galvez, who fronted TVE news from 1990 to 1992.

Only doc-series “A Strange Place,” from Catalan pubcaster TV-3, airing at 9.30 p.m., has notched strong 25% shares, as well as enfranchising immigrants by asking their opinions of Catalans. (The women are hairy and wear huge panties.)

Immigrants do appear on the news, but in reportage about criminal gangs or about the interception of illegals hidden in boats off the Canary Islands.

“The media only presents one view-point: illegal immigration, delinquency, terrorism, ideological and religious views,” complains Sonia Ziadi Trives, manager of inter-cultural consultancy Conectando Culturas.

Spain’s right condemns immigration. News daily “El Mundo” thundered last year about “avalanches of migrants, who could bring with them problems of crime and integration.”

Spaniards are particularly ambivalent toward Maghrebis, dubbed Moors. But Spain boasts centuries of multi-cultural history. Galicia, the Basque country and Catalonia have their own languages and culture.

The ’60s or ’70s saw millions of Spaniards emigrate abroad or into Spain’s suddenly sprawling cities.

Barring negative news coverage, immigration and racism haven’t hit most Spaniards’ radars.

TV series “Winds of Water,” about Spanish immigration to and from Argentina, crashed on Telecinco, despite critical raves. When Luis Aragones, the trainer of Spain’s national soccer team, called France’s Thierry Henry a “shitty nigger,” Spanish media didn’t demand his dismissal.

The large question is, if the migrant tsunami continues, whether attitudes will degenerate in Spain.

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