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24 / 08 / 2004
Jesús Martín Barbero, professor of communications from Colombia: “The poorness of our television does not reflect the cultural diversity of our societies”

During the Forum’s ‘141 Questions for 141 Nights’ (106): “Is television the real global culture?” Jesús Martín, an expert in communications pointed out that global culture does not exist. “What we have is a process that standardizes the imaginary of people, and television is the preferred medium to do this,” he explained. He did not hesitate to define audience surveys as “social lies that do not make a difference between having a TV connected from actually paying attention to what is shown.” He foresees a good moment for local televisions if they are capable of connecting with the society they are in: “They are the only alternative to an extremely shady process of private media concentration that is unable to see beyond business profits.”

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Jesús Martín Barbero, professor of communication, pointed out at the Haima Stage that television has lost its capacity to connect with the majorities in the last years. In his view, deregulation has neither expanded nor improved the offer. “Ours is a poor television that does not reflect the cultural diversity of our societies,” he concluded. For professor Martin Barbero, audience surveys are “a social lie”. “No matter what devices they connect to our antennas, to have a TV connected is not the same as as actually paying attention to what is shown.” He admitted that in Latin America television and cinema made both divorce and abortion possible, he insisted on the fact that the great TV chains shape their programs based on “The total number of televisions connected, which bears absolutely no relation with the tastes of the majorities.”

“It is dreadful to say it, but Spain has the television it deserves,” he stated with regard to the model of public television that was put in place by the former administration. He referred top the importance of social monitoring in order to avoid “the squandering of millions in a public television that offers no alternatives in comparison with the private stations.”

He pointed out that reality shows are a symbol of the failure of the confessional and also of psychoanalysis. “We live in a changing society that needs to tell its secrets in public.” He refused to regard television as an example of global culture “because global culture does not exist.” In exchange, he admits that globalization is a process that affects all cultures. “This is a process whereby imaginaries are standardized and television is the medium for this. The imaginaries are very important for the majority of people because they let you dream." Dream in a world that, in his opinion, is undergoing a serious crisis in its institutions: "The political parties are electoral machines; the school, as it was has gone to hell because it doesn't respond at all to the current model of social communication; the crisis of work has ended the idea of stability. How could society not reflect a similar breakdown?"

Jesús Martín Barbero explained that, in respect to the negative influences that television may lead to, the main concerns should not point towards the youths: "I am more concerned about the children and adults; the television forms a part of what the youths detest, because they watch it at home, and everything that takes place in this environment is problematic. For them, music is a thousand times more important than television."

Talking of local television channels, "the local network in Catalonia is like a small model to imitate" professor Martín Barbero reasoned, that will have a good future if it knows how to connect with the society that it is surrounded by: "They are the only alternative to this opaque thing that is the concentration of private media, incapable of going beyond business." In the terrain of the possible initiatives of success, he mentioned the project of starting a world television channel "to bring down the pride of the large television channels" and to offer a new space of proximity, information, and creativity.

Jesús Martín Barbero has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Louvaine. He has postgraduate studies in Anthropology and Semiotics of the University of Paris. He is the founder of the department of Communication sciences of the Valle University (Colombia), and was president of the Latin American Association of Communication Researchers, as well as an active member of the Latin American Federation of Faculties of Social Communication. He has worked a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid and as a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Stanford, and at the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico. He is the author of diverse books and research among which the following stand out: "De los medios a las mediaciones," "Comunicación masiva," "Discurso y poder," "Televisión y melodrama," "Mapas nocturnos y Pre-textos: conversaciones sobre la comunicación y sus contextos."