This practice was stopped in 2006, under the centre-left government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, because it was feared that children might be upset by seeing a matador killed or seriously injured in the ring (and because TVE were being priced out of the market for the major festivals by private broadcasters). The edited highlights were broadcast late in the evening.
Last year TVE pulled bullfighting from its schedules altogether, saying it contravened its code of conduct for programmes before Spain's late evening watershed hour. Bullfights mostly start at 6 pm, falling into children's viewing hours. (Interestingly, there is no age limit on children attending the events in person.) Furious fans accused the broadcaster of shunning a key part of Spanish popular culture. "This means that TVE, which belongs to us all, will deprive us of something that over the centuries has formed part of the cultural patrimony of many Spaniards," bellowed columnist Andrés Amorós in the newspaper ABC.
|Ana Pastor - sacked for speaking out|
So TVE have decided to air live bullfights again, starting with a prestigious event in Valladolid on 5 September. Breeders and promoters have agreed to waive their broadcasting fees, and top matadors Julián López – known as El Juli – José María Manzanares and Alejandro Talavante have waived their royalties.
The current President, Mariano Rajoy, is known to be a fan of los toros, but it is a deeply divisive issue across the country and has been banned in the Canaries, Cataluña and most recently, San Sebastian in the Basque country. "Now the bullfighting lobby seems prepared to do anything in order to bring live fights back to our public television channel, even if that means trampling over European Union television rules," say PACMA, the animal rights party, which lobbies against bullfighting.
So we will once again be able to enjoy our afternoon tea or early-evening beer in the local bar accompanied by the roar of the crowd in our ears and TV close-ups of blood pouring from gigantic cloven-hoofed mammals goaded by men in skin-tight pink pants.
To be honest I always thought the ban on live broadcasts was a bit daft and rather un-Spanish, reminiscent of the British Elf & Safety culture much trumpeted by the Daily Wail. Either ban it completely and be done with it, or let children see it as it is. After all, Spanish kids are used to seeing blood on the telly: every road accident report is accompanied by close-ups of bloodstained tarmac, twisted metal and hastily-covered bodies. Let them be the judges of whether this barbarous activity is part of their "cultural patrimony", to be protected at all costs.