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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 16:24 GMT
The press in Spain
Spanish press graphic
Newspapers in Spain were tightly controlled for a large part of the 20th century under the autocratic regime of General Francisco Franco, but a vibrant and free press has emerged since the onset of democracy in the mid-1970s.

This is borne out by the fact that many of the major dailies first hit the news-stands after Franco's death.

Spain's leading newspapers are predominantly located in the capital, Madrid, though powerful regional sentiments - particularly in Catalonia and the Basque Country - mean major newspapers in those areas can have an important influence in local and national life.

Sports newspapers, particularly those like Marca which places a heavy emphasis on football, attract a large readership in Spain, and some of the main national dailies produce regional editions in major cities like Seville and Valencia.

In total, there are more than 100 dailies published in Spain, but few have a circulation topping 100,000.

Most are published in Spanish, although Catalans can read the news in Catalan, and Basques in Basque. There are also a number of bilingual papers, notably Catalan-Spanish, Galician-Spanish and Basque-Spanish.

Latest figures indicate the total sales of daily newspapers stand at around 4.2m having fallen slightly over the last few years. The circulation rate is about 100 copies per 1,000 inhabitants, which is very low in comparison with other European countries. In Spain there are major differences between the different regions.

Traditional titles are facing a major challenge from free papers given away at railway stations and on city streets. The World Association of Newspapers' report for 2005 noted that in Spain free daily distribution represented 51% of the market.

In the face of such stiff competition and low readership figures, established papers rely heavily on editorial promotions and most newspapers are available online, with original web-based content, for which some demand a subscription fee.

Ownership of the daily newspaper industry is concentrated, with large media groups like Prisa and Zeta dominating the scene, and foreign investors have tended to eschew the daily market and focus on periodicals.

Main papers

El Pais

Based: Madrid
Founded: 1976
Circulation: 435,000 (2006)
Owner: Prisa

It is no coincidence that this daily emerged only after Franco's death and fast became the top circulation paper in the country, backing the then government of socialist Felipe Gonzalez. El Pais (The Country) continues to support the socialists and was one of the most vociferous critics of Spain's involvement in the 2003 Iraq war. Like its main Madrid rivals, El Pais is compact size and comfortably straddles the line between authoritative and entertaining. It has a number of regional and international editions.


Based: Madrid
Founded: 1903
Circulation: 261,000 (2006)
Owner: Prensa Espanola

Founded in 1903, ABC became a daily in 1905, and sees itself as the doyen of Madrid journalism. It considers itself a staunch supporter of the monarchy as "the most harmonious system for Spain". During the Civil War of 1936-39, circumstances forced the publication of two editions, one in Madrid backing the republicans and another in Seville supporting Franco's forces. Now, it claims to be independent, though it has been a consistent supporter of the Popular Party, advocating the politics of a "modern, reformist and European centre-right".

El Mundo

Based: Madrid
Founded: 1989
Circulation: 320,000 (2006)
Owner: Unidad Editorial

The newest of Madrid's three major general news tabloids, El Mundo has managed to establish itself as a popular alternative to El Pais and ABC. With a right-wing political perspective, the daily originally was a virulent critic of the socialist government and a keen supporter of the Popular Party. But it subsequently distanced itself from the PP after failing to obtain the government support it had hoped for in a battle for control of the digital TV sector. It is now arguably the most independent-minded of the big Madrid dailies.

La Vanguardia

Based: Barcelona
Founded: 1881
Circulation: 208,000 (2006)
Owner: La Vanguardia

Of the widely read Spanish dailies, La Vanguardia is the grand-daddy of them all, having been founded in 1881. Its conservative line allowed it to continue publishing independently under the Franco regime, and it proved adaptable enough to become Spain's top circulation daily for a brief period after his death. It was subsequently eclipsed, especially outside Catalonia, by the success of El Pais, but still remains one of the top-selling dailies. It gives critical support to regional parties and causes. It is particularly popular among the Catalan middle classes, and is seen as providing well balanced coverage of regional, national and international events.

El Periodico de Catalunya

Based: Barcelona
Founded: 1978
Circulation: 163,000 (2006)
Owner: Ediciones Primera Plana

Barcelona's second major daily is published in Spanish and Catalan, unlike its venerable rival La Vanguardia, which only publishes in Spanish. However, unlike the latter's backing for regional parties, El Periodico has tended to support the socialists, although not uncritically. It has managed to capture a sizeable share of the regional market since its comparatively recent arrival on the scene, appealing to a blend of students, office workers and young professionals. Readership is largely confined to Catalonia.

El Correo

Based: Bilbao
Founded: 1910
Circulation: 121,000 (2006)
Owner: Diario El Correo

El Correo is a long-established, independent, Spanish-language daily which has traditionally supported an accommodation between the Basque Country and Madrid. Its conciliatory stance has angered the Basque separatist group Eta, which has targeted it on a number of occasions. In one attack in March 2001, about 20 petrol bombs were thrown at its offices in Bilbao. Most of its estimated 500,000 plus readers are from the middle and upper classes.


Based: San Sebastian
Founded: 1999
Circulation: Unknown, Egin claims 50,000
Owner: Baigorri Argitaletxea SA
This Basque- and Spanish-language daily began publishing after the daily Egin was closed down by the renowned anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon in 1998 on charges of aiding the banned separatist group Eta. Gara describes itself as having been "born out of circumstances marked by the closure of Egin". Forced to be more circumspect in its coverage of the Basque scene than its predecessor, it still maintains an openly nationalist, anti-Madrid stance.

El Diario Vasco

Based: San Sebastian
Founded: 1934
Circulation: 88,000 (2006)
Owner: Sociedad Vascongada de Publicaciones SA

Like Bilbao's El Correo, the daily publishes in Spanish and takes a liberal and conciliatory line over relations between the Basque Country and Madrid. By far the majority of its 300,000 plus readers are from the ABC socio-economic groups. Its political stance has generated a number of attacks from Eta, including the shooting dead of its financial director in May 2001, and an attack on the house of one of its political cartoonists.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


Country profile: Spain
16 Mar 04 |  Country profiles


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