Caffarel tapped to head RTVE

University professor steps to helm of Spanish pubcaster

MADRID — Spain’s new socialist government has tapped Carmen Caffarel, a 50-year-old university professor, as the numero uno at Spain’s troubled giant pubcaster RTVE.

Caffarel has little direct business management experience. She hails, however, from Madrid’s Rey Juan Carlos U., which boasts two of Spain’s most prestigious and experienced TV execs. Among its teaching staff are Jose Miguel Contreras and Mikel Lejarza, both toppers at drama producer the Arbol Group.

Contreras was a key figure in designing incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s TV campaign in the run-up to his win in the March 14 general elections.

Caffarel’s largest challenge is to deliver on Rodriguez Zapatero’s promise of turning RTVE into an independent pubcaster.

The pubcaster was widely vilified under Spain’s outgoing Partido Popular for its allegedly biased coverage of the Prestige oil slick and March 11 terrorist attacks.

As Carrafel’s little known in political circles, his selection deflects the criticism of those who’d be irked by the choice of a political appointee.

The big question asked Wednesday in Spain was the identity of RTVE’s future director and numero dos, traditionally responsible for such crucial day-to-day matters as acquisitions and programming.

Lejarza or Contreras would be obvious candidates but may be put off by the fact that Caffarel is seen as an interim director general until Spain’s lower house appoints a permanent topper in one or two years.

Her numero dos notwithstanding, Caffarel has taken on the toughest job in the Spanish TV biz.

RTVE faces a E6.8 billion ($8.2 billion) debt mountain and is plagued by an overweight staff, opaque accounting systems and politically sensitive newscasts that will never satisfy all of Spain’s political classes all of the time.

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