12 June 2007
TV3 is the public broadcasting corporation for Catalonia (Spain). No big deal, you might think - and you would be right. However, a constellation of corporate hacks under the collective name of "Andromeda" has turned the Wikipedia entry for TV3 into a fawning clone of the network's web site (a kind of information Black Hole that sucks in truth and spits out crud). That involves scrubbing the entry clean of any less than flattering references, no matter how well documented they may be. Indeed, the better sourced they are, the more important it is to get rid of them into the nearest "Memory Hole". But what embarrassing gems are we being denied by this NPOV "clean up"? Well, here are just a few:
Public debate on TV3's standards
One of the latest TV3 offerings is "Cantamania" - a song contest in which generally talentless youngsters from Catalonia's towns and villages sing to a karaoke while their local supporters cheer them on. The show has drawn widespread criticism from TV and media critics. An article on the program in Catalonia's Avui newspaper written by Salvador Cardos i Roig, a leading journalist and sociologist, was titled "Populist Barbarity". Roig argued "It is very worrying that this half-hour exercise in summertime populism is put out by Catalonia's main public broadcaster. Cantamania, which is broadcast just before the evening news, for all its apparent banality, is just another symptom of the madness overtaking what used to be a prestigious public broadcasting network." Other influential voices raised against Cantamania (detailed in the August 6, 2006 edition of Avui) include the paper's journalist Xavier Bosch (who rhetorically asks "whatever has happened to TV3's linguistic standards?"); Daniel Condeminas, ERC councillor to CCRTV - the Catalan broadcasting corporation of which TV3 forms part ("the standard of Catalan is unacceptable"); Miquel Reniu, CiU councillor to CCRTV ("the program is of very poor quality, not least when it comes to language" and "both the amount and quality of Catalan spoken on TV3 have taken a nose dive").
You can see why that was cut, can't you? (especially for a network whose only reason for existence is to broadcast in Catalan). Maybe it is just a storm in a teacup but all Wikipedia has left us with is the infinitely less interesting corporate crockery.
But when it comes to cutting out the interesting stuff, why not go the whole hog? (and Wikipedia, bless its trotters, does just that). So you won't get read the following:
Further evidence of the slide in standards can be seen in programs like No em ratllis ("Don't Bug Me"), in which supposedly winsome tots and young children answer the presenters' questions on selected topics. The program broadcast on March 14, 2007 was very much par for the course, with kids being asked to give their views on farting, defecating and body odor. The "adult" studio guest was Pere Rubianes, whose usual stock-in-trade is humor focusing on onanism. He obligingly played along with the poo theme to the delight of the elderly studio audience. Long after the joke began to sour, the program's ineffable presenter (Júlia Otero) shifted to the smells given off by garbage. The program strengthens the case of those critics who say the network is going down the tube.
True, well-documented but - well - something the network doesn't like, right? Wikipedia, which probably has an eye to a future IPO, just cut it.
Even the television critic of a major Spanish national newspaper gets the chop (which is rich when you consider the article is about a media channel):
TV3's latest home-grown attempt at a blockbuster (launched in April 2007) is "La Via Augusta". Each episode cost €210,000 - a drop in the ocean for some networks but a fortune for a small regional producer like TV3. The launch was preceded by an unprecedented barrage of publicity and the first episode won almost 20% of the audience share. This had dwindled to a little over 13% by the second episode. The reasons are not hard to find. The television critic of La Vanguardia - Alfred Rexach - was blunt: "Trapped in a papier mâché set and decked out in the kind of trappings one might find in a flea market, well-known actors and actresses floundered like belly-up tortoises to save something from the wreck. The old stereotypes about the Romans were trotted out as the plot ground on through fornication, assassination, and conspiracy. The whole thing was plainly ridiculous". (...) Sònia Sánchez - embarrassingly billed by Jordi Roure, Head of Drama Series, as "one of TV3's best directors" - is another accomplice in this sorry conspiracy against taxpayers and the viewing public.
Of course, I suppose you could write all this off as "opinion" (regurgitation of the TV3 corporate web site in the Wikipedia entry apparently counts as "fact"). But where I think "Andromeda" and Wikipedia really earn the "Emmanual Goldstein" award is for their shameless censorship of the following:
The network and Catalan politics
The network's heavy dependence on subsidies from Catalonia's regional government (Generalitat de Catalunya) has led to persistent charges of political bias in the network's news and political reporting. This appears to be well-founded. It later came to light that in 1993 Jordi Pujol, then President of Catalonia and leader of the governing Convèrgencia party, commissioned a secret report on the political sympathies of TV3's presenters and reporters. One of the targets was Salvador Alsius, erstwhile newsreader at the network and now Dean of Journalism at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.
Political manipulation of a "public" (actually, government-owned) network? - perish the thought. Wikipedia stamped on that one pretty quickly, leaving us with "Andromeda" to extol the virtues of TV3. Welcome to the information age, where corporate crap and the Internet meet.
Wikipedia - madness in the saddle
I would like to know who gets to lock down pages and censor contributions. No credible reasons have been given for censoring information on TV3 (Catalonia) and Barcelona. There seems to be an irrational pecking order in Wiki that grants censorship rights to characters like "Andromeda" (you guessed - a non-native contributor who writes in bad English and whose listed interests include "Stargate"). No wonder the encyclopedia contains so much crap. It therefore came as little surprise to discover that until recently, Wiki's arbitration supremo ("ArbCom") was a man who passed himself off as a professor with no fewer than four theological degrees. It later transpired that the 24-year old wunderkind had no qualifications worth talking about. The whole wretched tale can be read:
In these circumstances, I should not be at all surprised if many jump ship to join Citizendium or other initiatives that aim to overcome Wiki's fatal shortcomings.