21/09/2021

Language, the red line

2 min

The state audiovisual bill comes at a key moment, when in Catalonia there is growing awareness, and evidence, of the social decline in the use of Catalan, especially among young people. The psychologist and pedagogue Jaume Funes explains in an article that more and more young people believe they can live without Catalan. The factors are various and concurrent, but in any case audiovisual leisure is certainly one of them. If for years Tv3 was an obvious tool for linguistic normalisation, now it is clearly not enough. Audiovisual consumption has become atomised. First there were the private television channels and now the offer is dominated by online platforms: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, HBO. In all of them, the use of Catalan is absolutely marginal. In no case does it exceed 2%. Only the Catalan platform Filmin comes close to 20%.

The moment is also key in political terms, after the start of the dialogue table between the State and the Generalitat to address the dispute over sovereignty and at the gates of the negotiation of the general budget of the State, in which the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has a position of strength, as has been seen this Tuesday when it was the first group to be called by the Pedro Sánchez's government to discuss it. It is in this context that the draft of the state audiovisual law fell like a small time bomb: it does not specify what quota of works in Catalan and in the other co-official languages of the state online platforms are obliged to include in their catalogues and to finance. Instead, it calls for Spanish productions, meaning that all future support may end up going exclusively to films and series in Spanish. If the situation of marginalisation of Catalan is already obvious today, a new law in these terms would condemn it to disappear from the main medium of popular culture in the 21st century. This more than explains the alarm it has created.

The government formed by ERC and Together for Catalonia (JxCat) has placed the recovery of Catalan's prestige and use as one of its priority policies. And it is clear that the educational and audiovisual worlds are the two areas in which it is most urgent to regain ground. The Catalan Minister of Education acknowledged last week that many teachers, in practice, do not teach their classes in Catalan, which means that standardisation in schools is in fact only half applied. It is the first time that there is an explicit recognition of this fact. Organisations such as Òmnium Cultural are also pushing for a return to Catalan as the language of social cohesion that it was in the early years of democracy, when it had broad social support, also in Spanish-speaking environments.

After a decade of accelerating sovereigntism, the political crossroads at which the country finds itself should be used to redefine the red lines: language must be one. Because it is in a weak situation and because consensus must be rebuilt around it. What is needed here is unity, beyond blocs and partisanship. A unity that takes language out of the political confrontation and moves it to Madrid, where it is necessary to exert pressure from all Catalan actors to ensure a favourable legal framework. The audiovisual law is the first litmus test.

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