censorship

   The official culture of Franco's Spain was intolerant, xenophobic, sectarian and resolutely Castilian. Any expression of Catalan, Basque or Galician culture was forbidden, but no-one, whatever his or her cultural origins, was immune from censorship. José Angel Valente had his passport withdrawn in 1972 by order of a military court for publishing a short story deemed to be insulting to the army, and his publisher was sentenced to six months" imprisonment. Censorship bore most heavily on those forms of expression which reached the wider public, especially the press and the cinema. Any news displeasing to the government was systematically suppressed, and editors were obliged to act as channels of state propaganda. Editors who failed to comply with directives from the Delegación de Prensa (Press Section) of the Ministry of Education were heavily fined.
   A similar balance between suppression and enforced publication existed in the cinema. No film could be shown, in public or in private, unless it received a certificate of approval from the Junta Superior de Orientación Cinematográfica (Higher Board of Cinematic Orientation). In 1943, it became compulsory for cinemas to include in their programmes the officially approved newsreels known as the NO-DO (Noticiario Documental). It was in the cinema that the influence of the Catholic Church was mainly exercised, for in addition to being represented on the Junta Superior, the Church had its own censorship organization, whose classifications of films were published in the press.
   Whereas the main thrust of state censorship was political, the influence of the church was directed principally towards suppressing supposed sexual laxity or explicitness. Norms published by the bishops in 1959 forbade engaged couples to walk arm-in-arm, and posters displayed in church porches in the 1960s set out detailed specifications for modesty in women's dress. Newspapers and magazines employed retocadores (retouchers), who were responsible for painting vests on the torsos of boxers, lengthening hemlines and reducing the size of women's busts.
   All of this created a climate of stifling conformity, but in practice implementation of regulations was patchy and inconsistent. This could work in either a negative or positive direction. In the 1950s writers and filmmakers complained that the operation of censorship was frequently arbitrary and unpredictable. Works permitted by the Ministry of Information and Tourism (which took over the functions of censorship on its formation in 1951) could be suppressed as a result of ecclesia-tical interference or complaints from private citizens. On the other hand, personal contacts could often enable applicants to bypass the system, especially since fellow-writers were often employed as readers by the censorship apparatus.
   Furthermore, censorship offered a challenge to the resourceful writer or filmmaker. An indirect and allegorical treatment of contemporary political issues could not only outwit the censor but lend depth and complexity to the work. Antonio Buero Vallejo's historical plays and Carlos Saura's 1965 film La caza (The Hunt) are notable examples of works in which the events of the plot are meant to suggest by analogy the endemic violence in Spanish society which led to the Civil War.
   There were other factors, of an economic or political kind, which to some extent mitigated the rigour of censorship. At the same time as the regime was attempting to smother dissent among its own citizens, it was trying to present an acceptable face to the outside world. By the 1960s, delegations from cultural bodies like UNESCO were being shown collections of books published in Catalan, in an attempt to create the impression of an open and pluralist cultural climate, but there were still no Catalan newspapers or periodicals, with the sole exception of the monthly Serra d'Or, permitted only because it was published by a church body, the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat.
   In the cinema, considerations of prestige merged with economic factors to produce a balance between ideological control and concessions to popular demand which was virtually unique to Spain. The cinema was not solely an art form which could increase Spain's reputation abroad but an industry which employed significant numbers of people. In addition, in a country with the highest European ratio of seats to population, the cinema helped to forward the regime's policy of discoura-ging the populace from engaging in political debate by providing an unceasing stream of light entertainment. In order to cater for this demand, the authorities allowed the importation of large numbers of American films, but, by making compulsory the dubbing of the soundtrack into Spanish, they ensured that anything considered risqué or politically sensitive was edited out. The mid-1960s saw a change in the apparatus of censorship with the enactment of the Press Law sponsored by the Minister of Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne. Prior censorship was abolished, but the authorities could still suppress or confiscate material after publication. This measure, though presented at the time as an important step towards liberalization, did little more than replace censorship by bureaucrats with selfcensorship. Censorship virtually disappeared with the death of Franco, and the years immediately after 1975 were characterized by an upsurge of sexually explicit magazines and films, but after the intensity of the post-Franco sex holiday, the availability of pornography in Spain settled back to a more moderate level. Press freedom has made an important contribution to the consolidation of democracy by exposing corruption and abuses of power, but state television (RTVE) has attracted criticism, both under the UCD administrations of 1977 to 1982 and under the Socialists post-1982, for lack of objectivity and excessive coverage of the party of government.
   See also: Basque culture; Catalan culture; cinema law; Francoist culture; Galician culture; language and national identity; pornography; theatre
   Further reading
   - Carr, R. and Fusi, J.P. (1979) Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy, London: Allen & Unwin (chapter 6 includes an excellent account of Francoist culture and the changes it underwent after 1975).
   - Gubern, R. (1981) La censura: Función política y ordenamiento jurídico bajo el franquismo (19361975), Barcelona: Ediciones Península (an excellent and well-documented general study).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 10 includes useful comments on censorship in the context of a general shift in social and moral attitudes).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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