Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gastronomy And Astronomy: IB3

The Mallorca (aka Balearic) public broadcaster, IB3, has a new director-general. He's a man with long(ish) hair, a couple of days' stubble, a moustache and glasses. Worryingly, he reminds me of a university history tutor from many years ago, from a time - the 1970s - when long(ish) hair, a couple of days' stubble (or preferably several months), a moustache and glasses, or combinations thereof, were considered de rigueur among the academics of north Lancashire.

In those days of yore, a further requisite was that academics wore their left-wing credentials on their lapels or in their wallets. Card-carriers of the Communist Party, Socialist Workers' Party or some mad Maoist collective were considered normal. Right-wing academics stood out like a very sore thumbing of the nose in the general direction of Marxism, Trotskyism and various other isms. They were looked upon as cranks, especially by the hairies in the ranks of the students' union.

None of the above, in terms of political affiliation, will apply to Andreu Manresa, the hirsute, bespectacled, latest incumbent of the IB3 hot seat. But as he is a journalist with "El País", the assumption is - probably not a wrong one - that his politics veer towards the left. "El País" is "The Guardian" of the Spanish media: academics of the good old days of unrest on the campuses would purchase their copies of "The Guardian" along with "The Morning Star" from the campus newsagent's and wrap the former inside the latter in order to boost street cred while marching off to the lecture hall.

Manresa, for anyone who attended Santa Ponsa's Moors and Christians' festivities in September, may well be familiar. He delivered the "pregón" for the Rei en Jaume fiesta, alluding to Calvia not as a village or as a town but as a "constellation", "a galaxy on Earth", with idiosyncrasies and contrasts - from the mega yachts of Portals to mega nights out in Maga. (Actually, he didn't say the latter about Magalluf; I've made that up.) If memory serves, he also had things to say about aubergines and almonds. And so, with all this in mind, what does the new DG have in store for IB3? A lot of cookery shows probably. Gastronomy and astronomy. The cuisine constellation.

One thing that is fairly evident is that the ruling junta in the Balearics is fairly pleased with their man - I'm sorry, pleased with the man; slip of the possessive pronoun. Broadcasting neutrality and all that, the leader of Podemos, Alberto Jarabo, has spoken in glowing terms of Manresa's experience and independence. He will, he says, "dignify" the public broadcaster, thus implying that it hasn't always been dignified, and in this regard he isn't totally inaccurate. Prestige will return, adds Jarabo, to the "profession of journalism".

Political lack of neutrality appears to have played a part in the roles of previous DGs, even if they have denied this. Jarabo believes that Manresa will not be subject to the pressures that others have experienced. His independence will out. But the very fact that Podemos (and PSOE and Més) are pleased with themselves and pleased at the appointment suggests that the other lots will be less so. And this is indeed the case. The PP, while recognising his professionalism, are somewhat miffed at the fact that they weren't asked about the appointment. Ciudadanos is the only party to specifically draw into question his independence, observing that his journalistic career has been under one particular "political colour": it's that old "El País"-"Guardian" thing.

It has been said of Podemos in the Balearics that one thing above all that it has craved is IB3. If this is indeed so, then one has to ask why. But though in apparent rapture at the appointment, it doesn't follow that Manresa will be at the beck and call of Podemos or indeed of the two government parties. One can hope that this is the case, as the broadcaster does need to be de-politicised. Jarabo implies that there won't be pressures. He should stick to his words then.

Within all of this, though, one has to also ask: does anyone really care about the appointment other than politicians? Of subjects that concern the local population, included among whom are foreign residents, I would guess that the DG of IB3 is fairly low on the list. Yet, the appointment and the fuss regarding the now ex-DG have commanded a great deal of media attention. Perhaps it's all a case of the media talking about itself and to itself. More than anything, the general public are only interested in there being a decent broadcaster, one that is paid for by their taxes. Which is how it should be anywhere. Leave the DG to get on with his job. And if that means gastronomy and astronomy, then so be it.

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