Machine translation obtained using Elia by Elhuyar
Yearbook 2023-24 | Igor Astibia Teiletxea (Hekimen Elkarteko zuzendaria)

The year 2023 has been a difficult year for the media in Basque. In line with what we highlighted in last year’s Yearbook, the consequences of the pandemic, first of all, and those caused by the war that has erupted in central Europe, have greatly increased some essential elements for the daily life of the media. Paper, electricity, fuels, rentals, services... Everything has grown and this is amidst a profound transformation process of the communication world in recent decades.

In this context, like last year, we have made a special effort since the partnership to provide us with more resources for the media in Basque. In fact, if before reasons were needed to significantly increase the exchanges of different calls, they are now more urgent. As we shall see below, although the effort made has borne fruit in some areas, in general, we are still far from the momentum that the sector needs from public institutions.

Regular calls for grants in the debate process

The media in Euskera play a strategic role in the process of normalization of Euskera and its contribution is fundamental for citizens to be able to make their diary in Euskera, guaranteeing their right to live in Euskera. But, just as the Basque language is a minority language in the process of normalization, the cooperation of public institutions is essential for the media in Basque. Without this support, progress can hardly be made, mainly due to the insufficiency of the Basque community and its direct impact on the different sources of income addressed by communication projects (recipients, subscribers, advertising...).

In 2019, the main institutions of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, the Basque Government and the three representatives agreed with the sector a new system of subsidies that valued the new model as an important step in the proper direction of the sector. With this new system, the first triennium, which was extended from 2019 to 2022, we tried to improve the deficiencies of the new model for the period 2022-2024, but finally a single point was achieved, increasing by 5% the overall amount of the call. Moreover, this growth did not reach all the media for various reasons.

The increased life of recent years has made things very difficult for the Basque media. In many cases, the increase in paper, electricity, fuels or the various services that have taken place in recent years has left virtually blank the progress made in 2019. The benefits of the new 2019 model, the improvement of working conditions and the stabilisation of working groups are once again being shaken. To all this, we must add the profound transformation that the world of communication has undergone in recent decades.

We have therefore launched a process in the Media Bureau to rethink the grant model with public institutions for the period 2025-2027, which is expected to also be valid for the subsequent triennium. This has been one of the most important actions of the year and will remain so in 2024. A subcommittee has been set up to lead the process and discussions and timing issues have been agreed.

In this process of rethinking the call for the period 2025-2027, the collaboration of the international consultancy Innovation Media Consulting has been requested, among others. Pilot experiments will be carried out in one local media and another at national level, in order to better position these two media in the face of the different current challenges and to extract lessons that the sector can bring from these experiences. Likewise, and in line with the above, these two pilot experiences are also used to extract ideas that may be of interest to the 2025-2027 call.

In Navarra also in 2023 a process of reflection on the call for media in Basque began. The budgets for the year 2023 reached an increase of around 10% for the regular call, but the figure that continues to be allocated to this call is far from the needs of the Basque media in Navarra. Therefore, as was done in Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, the call model has been adapted to the new reality of the Basque media. A subcommittee has been set up within the Navarro Council of the Basque Country to draw up a report on the situation in the sector and to show the various actors the needs of the sector.

Progress in innovation support

In a context of profound transformation of the communication world, the media in Basque need the support of public institutions to adapt their structure, activity and/or offer to the new reality. That is why we in the sector are calling on the public institutions for extraordinary funding lines to boost innovation in all areas and on a continuous basis. Technological innovation is needed, but also innovation in the rest of the media, in internal organisation, in the management of work equipment, in training or in the supply that takes place.

For all these reasons, it has also been attempted in 2023 to provide new resources to drive innovation processes in the Basque media. Like last year, we have been in different forums this year, both with representatives of public institutions and with parliamentary groups, channelling different proposals for extraordinary innovation resources.

As we explained in the Yearbook last year, we managed to incorporate in the budgets of 2023 of Navarra a new item of 200,000 euros for innovation and 2023 was the year of preparation and resolution of the call for its distribution. Being the first time such a call was made, it was published later than expected (in early July) and from the association a special effort was made to distribute all the money foreseen in the call, but finally, for different reasons, it did not.

These include the elections to the Parliament of Navarra, the constitution of the new government and the appointment of the new director of Euskarabide. At the meeting with the new director to present to the association and present the lines we have in Navarre, this clearly told us that the draft budget for the year 2024 provided for the amount distributed in the resolution, which was less than last year. Since the association, however, both for this call and for the ordinary call we have requested a 10% increase through the parliamentary groups, and we have recently been able to learn that in the agreement reached by EH Bildu with the Government of Navarra these two sectoral demands have been taken into account.

Conversely, no progress has been made in this area of innovation in Álava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. As part of the Euskalgintza call, a new €150,000 was awarded to support the creation and dissemination of audio-visual in collaboration with the 2023 budgets. Despite 8 requests, the two projects with the highest points were expected to receive support of EUR 75,000, both partners of the association.

In the framework of the budgetary debate for 2024, once again, we have tried to make the representatives of the Basque Government see that more resources are needed for innovation, but given that they are the last budgets of the legislature and that we are discussing the model of the media call for the period 2025-2027, the innovation effort will be limited to this heading last year.

As has been said, this new party was part of the Euskalgintza call. In view of the fact that several projects were adversely affected by the regular media call, in 2022 the possibility of strengthening projects with more money for the Euskalgintza call was opened. Well, that was the first year, most projects had access to more resources, but the second year, in 2023, hasn"t. Media outlets have received less than in 2022, mainly because of the submission of new projects to the call and because the overall amount of aid has not increased.

In short, this increase in the appropriations obtained in Navarra is very important because they are the first budgets of the legislature and that usually marks those of the following years. On the other hand, we hope that in the coming years the institutions of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, as well as those of the Northern Basque Country, will take Navarre as a model and will create or expand innovation packages.

No extraordinary call for grants

The Basque Government granted for two years, in 2021 and 2022, extraordinary subsidies between various media in Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic to the media in the first year (directly without a call) and in the second (through a call) to ensure the right to information and plurality of views. Well, in 2023 there was no such thing and there was no good news for the Basque media. Although in the two years mentioned more than 9 out of 10 euros are devoted to the Spanish media, this extraordinary aid is important for the Basque media.

In 2021, the government distributed €5 million and only 2 media outlets in Basque. We held meetings with officials from different departments and in 2022 they put a million more, increasing the stock market by 20%, and took into account 9 media outlets in Basque, but again the amount received by the media in Basque was very small (less than 8%).

The non-existence of this extraordinary subsidy in 2023 added a point of difficulty not only to the 9 media in Basque that received this aid last year, but also to those that have so far received nothing. In fact, it was to be assumed that, in view of the difficult context the media are experiencing in recent years, the third year would be aid for all media.

We hope that in 2024 there will be a new call such as these extraordinary grants and that this call will be fairer for the media in Basque than the previous two, collecting two essential measures for this: on the one hand, that all the media in Basque be taken into account and, on the other, that the calculations will be made according to their potential audience in the case of the media in Basque. If the new call for proposals fails to meet both measures or conditions, the injustice of the two previous calls shall be repeated to a greater or lesser extent.

Unequal distribution of institutional advertising

Another important issue for the media in Basque is institutional advertising, so last year we have also taken different steps from the partnership to work on the issue. Most of the advertising their public institutions hire goes to the Spanish media, which is not fair. According to the study conducted by Argia in December 2018, 92% of the advertising expenditure of the Basque Government (5.8 million euros) was received by the Spanish media, while the revenues in Basque did not reach half a million. Well, this year we have had access to new data, as the engineer Jaime Gómez-Obregón created a search engine based on the reports published annually by the Basque Government to inform advertising campaigns The weekly Argia carried out a new study in December last year with this tool and the result has been as illustrative as the one obtained in its day: In the period 2018-2022, 93% of the Basque Government’s advertising spending has gone to the Spanish media.

The imbalance is obvious and difficult to justify, but both try to do so. They say that the distribution is so unbalanced because the Spanish-language media audiences are higher than the Basque ones.

But in this perspective, both public institutions and contract advertising agencies, there is an obvious error: Why do the Basque media measure in Spanish media parameters? Why are media audiences not measured in Basque based on their potential audience? In fact, if one takes into account the knowledge of the Basque citizen, the media audiences in Basque are very important, truly significant, and in some areas are better than those of the Spanish media. So why do they all get into the same bag? Why are corrective criteria not introduced in the Basque media?

In the extraordinary subsidies mentioned above, for example, in 2021 corrective criteria were introduced in the case of a media in Basque, which managed to balance the distribution somewhat, in principle very unbalanced. Why can no such thing be done in the normal distribution of institutional advertising? This experience has made it clear that there is scope for incorporating corrective criteria of this kind and that if there is a will it can be done, so we will continue to act from the partnership so that these measures are put into practice.

These have been, above all, the most important work carried out in 2023 since the Hekimen association, which aims to be the tool of the sector, but, as we shall see below, the media in Basque have continued to take steps on their own.

Media context in Basque

The Basque media are making a great effort to adapt their actions to the new reality. Steps are being taken in different areas to improve and expand its offer, reorganizing its actions, continuously forming work teams, demonstrating new supports and products... Although the stronger impetus of public institutions would facilitate all these steps, the Basque media are not paralyzed.

If one of the trends or phenomena that have occurred in the world of communication last year should be noted, this has been the eruption of applications or developments using artificial intelligence. The use of artificial intelligence is not new, it has been used for years, but last year there has been some generalisation and hundreds of tools for different functions have been made available to individuals.

Hamaika Telebista and Kanaldude, for example, have begun to offer their contents with subtitles in Basque using artificial intelligence with the help of Orai NLP. In this case, artificial intelligence facilitates the transition from voice to writing, but tools are also being developed to reverse the path.

In this field of artificial intelligence, however, not everything is gold and you"re hearing opposite voices. In recent years the European Union has reflected on artificial intelligence and has defined its vision or strategy on the subject. On the other hand, various creative content is denouncing the unauthorized use of its content for the formation of artificial intelligences.

On the other hand, and returning to the issue of automatic dubbing, it is clear that, at least in a certain time, it will be very difficult for artificial intelligence to adequately duplicate audiovisual with many nuances, so today and here the work of professional dubbyists will be essential.

In this sense, it seems that initiatives like Apantallamiento en Euskera and in the context of the Spanish General Audiovisual Law approved last year, things have started to move and the different streaming platforms have started to double and subwrite some movies to the Basque. However, as Apps Euskaraz denounced last year, public and private television channels, based in the Spanish state, do not comply with the minimum established by the new law, nor in content aimed at adults, let alone minors under 12. Likewise, only two out of every 100 movies released in Basque movies are premiered in Basque.

In this context, the Bikain platform was born on 15 September last year. It offers almost all contents in Basque, in original version, folded or subtitled, many of them created by the EITB group itself, but there are also international productions and you can also see works produced by its creators and media. It still has a long way to go, but it can be an important step forward.

Major changes are taking place in the audiovisual sector, but as the transformation is taking place in all areas, the media in Basque have continued to take further steps in the digitisation process.

For example, in the Berria medium, there have been changes in the context of the 20th anniversary. They have made a significant digital leap, updating the web and applications and changing the way writing works to strengthen the digital offering. In this sense, the Mantangorri paper supplement now has its own website in which besides the paper content others can be found. A new digital channel dedicated to the mountain coordinated by Ramón Olasagasti has also been launched and, as they opened the Telegram channel, last year they opened the whatsapp.

Kanaldude has also renewed its website to facilitate content consumption and has updated its offer with innovative formats such as webseries. Since April last year, you can also check the content generated by Orange, Boygues and Free suppliers.

Last year, eleven TVs bet on webseries such as Entzun bero, bai esan with humorous fiction and Tik Token are also making videos to offer special information, news and interviews dynamically. The Tximist project, launched in collaboration with the Vice-Ministry of Linguistic Policy for Young People in Vitoria-Gasteiz, should also be highlighted.

In Argia there has also been a year of change in 2023. They have launched a new structure to work with information, analysis and entertainment, and have taken steps to expand and improve the digital offer, as well as to renew the general website, renovating the website of the Bizibaratzea project or launching the Telegram channel. And they"ve also significantly strengthened their podcast offering: In spring he released podcasts such as hysterical memory, Larrun or Egonarria, the first to talk about history, the second as voice of the Larrun supplement and the third dedicated to the primary sector.

In fact, the increase in podcast in Basque in recent years is noteworthy. The news, in addition to its usual podcast sessions (Berria FM, Kinka...), created eight other podcasts in the context of its 20th anniversary with different themes (Basque, feminism, nationality, world, culture, community and external gaze). In addition, Ez Gatoz Paristik and Lanarte have produced a programme dedicated to the working conditions of artists. The Naiz radio broadened its podcast offer last year and the Bideak programme that analyzes the consequences of the closure of the border deserves special mention, among other things because last year it received the Rikardo Arrangi journalism award.

Menane Oxandabaratz of Herria magazine also received the Rikardo Arrangi award, in this case an honorific milestone. Incidentally, we cannot fail to mention the subscription campaign launched by Herria magazine in collaboration with the Public Entity of the Basque Country. The PEI paid 70% of each subscription for subscribers to pay less, reducing the annual subscription amount to €17.5.

Proof of this strengthening of the podcast is that last year two festivals focused on podcasts were held: in early March the Parentesi festival was held in Donostia and in April the Euskal Pod event was held in Bilbao.

And now that the offer of podcasts is expanding, video podcasts are also multiplying. Last year Hamaika Telebista created a new video podcast called Zozoak Belearen, focused on humor and feminist perspective, and the Euskalerria radio also bet on video podcasts, the Flop and Irratia culture pays us the train creating new programs. One of the new podcasts of light is the video podcast Egonarria, about the primary sector, and to quote another, the program Putas amak, created in the 2nd laboratory, is also located in the field of videopodcast.

We can say that audiovisual content in general and radio in particular are a format and/or channel in which radio is alive. In recent years, for example, in Ipar Euskal Herria, different steps have been taken to adapt to the expansion of digital radio and, to a large extent, are ready to adapt to the new reality. Apparently, the FM will also last for a while, but gradually the digital radio will become widespread and dominate. Cars produced from 2022, such as the DAB or radios capable of tuning the digital radio, must be present in the French state. In Navarre the OBD licensing process was also launched, but the decisions are being delayed and the authorisations have not yet been awarded.

Conversely, no call has been made in Álava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa and is not foreseen in the short term. In fact, what has now been extended has been the possibility of obtaining licences or standard permits and, taking advantage of this possibility, a licence has been requested for some of the 22 broadcasters that make up the Rosa network: Hala Bedi, Bilbo Hiria, 97 irratia, Cupik, Herri Irratia (Bermeo and Bilbao), Antxeta Irratia (Irun and Hondarribia), Arraio irratia and Tolosaldeko Ataria irratia.

As regards collaboration, there have also been some experiences of collaboration between the media in Basque last year. In Ipar Euskal Herria, for example, Euskal Irratia, Herria, Ipar Euskal Herriko Hitza, Kanaldude and Kazeta, have produced a housing program and disseminated the generated content using different supports and channels. Also, in the context of the elections in Navarra, Berria and Euskalerria Irratia have carried out an electoral program in collaboration with Katakrak and the Martín Ugalde Cultural Park.

Finally, I would like to recall the media that celebrated its anniversary last year. Thus, the radio Bedi turned 40, the radio Euskalerria 35, the radio Esan Erran from the region of Basaburua de Navarra 25 and the website of Argia also fulfilled the same. The news turned 20 and Martxelo Otamendi passed the witness of the position of director to Amagoia Mujika. And within a decade, among others, the Tokikom association, the Tolosaldea portal and the Ataun radio.

In general, media coverage of the years is a good sign and more so in the case of the Basque media. And it is a satisfaction that our media have been working over the years to improve their activity and offer, thanks to the contribution and solidarity of their community, the tireless work of their teams, who are trying to adapt to the new reality. They will accompany and accompany us on this journey as complex as exciting, helping to obtain resources, offering different training sessions, advising and supporting as much as possible. Together, it"s always easier.