Accountability systems

Compared with other European countries, Spain is underdeveloped in terms of media institutions and responsibility systems. The control of media activity usually rests with the State and the courts, which, in response to the claims received, supervise and, where appropriate, penalize abusive activities.

Part of the supervision system is the responsibility of the Audiovisual Councils, whose regulation is implemented by some autonomous regions. There is no national Audiovisual Council, which makes Spain an exception in the European Union as a whole. The only two regional councils in 2017 -those of Catalonia and Andalusia- control the activity of radio and television in their respective territories, ensuring that the contents and broadcasting times respect the established norms. Navarra had also had an Audiovisual Council since 2001, but it was closed in 2011 to reduce public spending.

The media also have some self-regulation mechanisms, which are reinforced by the existence of some associations. The most important ones are the Asociación de Autorregulación de la Comunicación Comercial (Association for the Self-Regulation of Commercial Communication - AutoControl), devoted to supervising respect for the legality of advertising messages, and the Código de Autorregulación de Contenidos de TV e Infancia (Code of Self-Regulation of TV Content and Children), subscribed by several television companies. There are also organisations that ensure the protection of media consumers, such as the Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación (Association of Communication Users - AUC).

Within the media, some have the figure of the ombudsman (Maciá Barber, 2006). Traditionally there have been three types: the Defender of the Reader for the press, of the Listener for the radio and of the Viewer for the television. In recent times, some digital native media have incorporated their own modality; was a pioneer in 2012 with the implementation of the “defender of the community”. Among the newspapers, El País and La Vanguardia have had this figure for the longest. Public television companies like RTVE also have the same figure.

Another self-regulatory body is the Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología del Periodismo (Committee of Arbitration, Complaints and Ethics of Journalism), which is attached to the Federación de Asociaciones de Periodistas de España (Federation of Journalists Associations of Spain - FAPE). According to the Code of Ethics of the FAPE, this committee analyses the complaints received regarding alleged ethical faults by Spanish media or journalists.