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Spain’s TVE drops its live bullfights

Pubcaster still showing taped highlights

MADRID — Spanish pubcaster TVE has quietly stopped airing live bullfights, although it’s still showing taped highlights on a latenight program for aficionados.

The official reason is to avoid offending the sensibilities of young children with gory scenes, respecting a voluntary industrywide code that without specifically mentioning bullfighting, seeks to limit onscreen violence or “sequences that are particularly crude or brutal” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bullfights usually start at 6.30 p.m.-7.00 p.m. TVE also said it couldn’t afford broadcast rights, but it will still cover the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona.

This doesn’t mean that bullfighting is off the air in Spain. Those who cannot afford cable or ring seats can still get their fix free in a bar — most have pay TV — or via regional pubcasters.

Most Spaniards don’t give a hoot for bullfights. It’s taken nearly six months for TVE’s lack of live coverage to spark major media coverage in Spain.

But in a country where bullfights are an honored tradition — even if more young viewers prefer to watch David Beckham or Beyonce — a few people are up in arms over the end of live coverage, a fixture on TV since 1948.

Juan Belmonte, a critic for TV station Canal Sur in Seville said bullfighting on state-run TV was profitable and had decent ratings. A bill with topflight fighters could earn an audience share of up to 24%, which is above average, according to TVE.

Average viewers for the 20 bullfights aired by Canal Sur this month and last — 460,000 for a 26.1% share — actually betters many primetime shows.

But TVE’s management has taken a stricter view lately.

Two weeks ago it dropped Eurojunior, the kids’ version of the song talent contest Eurovision, because the child singers were being promoted inappropriately, the pubcaster said (Daily Variety, Aug. 8, 2007).

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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