Before the Telecinco TV network even began broadcasting its El gran debate(The great debate) program on Saturday, Popular Party (PP) officials had warned the show’s producers that they would be watching with particular attention.
The PP knew that the program was going to deal with a huge scandal that broke last week, involving bonus payments allegedly made by the party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, to high-ranking members of the PP. And it wasted no time in taking action. During the broadcast of the show, which was hosted by Jordi González, the PP sent a message threatening to sue over the information and comments it was airing.
“I’m requesting that Jordi González make this announcement on the program: ‘PP leaders who are watching the program are going to study taking appropriate action given the information being broadcast on El gran debate’.” So read the text message that the PP’s director of communication sent to one of the show’s producers in the middle of the broadcast. Surprised and stunned, several commentators on the show suggested it might be more appropriate for the PP to bring legal action against Bárcenas rather than a TV show. Presenter González reminded viewers that everything they were being told, including the videos and graphics created to illustrate alleged corruption, was based on information that had already appeared in the Spanish press.
Swiss bank account
González stressed that the only thing that had been proven so far was that former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas had a Swiss bank account containing 22 million euros. “The program has repeated what has already been published in two newspapers,” said Edurne Uriarte, who took part in the debate alongside fellow commentators María Antonia Iglesias, Jorge Verstrynge, Ernesto Ekaizer, Ignacio Escolar, Ángel Expósito and Jaime González.
Offering the same line, a Telecinco spokeswoman reiterated that the only aim of the program was to discuss the facts surrounding the judicial investigation into the Bárcenas case, as reported by EL PAÍS and El Mundo newspapers, as well as the envelopes of money alleged to have been handed over to high-ranking PP officials. “It is striking that those newspapers have not been threatened while a program that is limited to opening a debate with viewers, with positions both for and against, is,” she said.
“In this case we are more concerned about possible revenge by the government against the company than a lawsuit against which we could defend ourselves perfectly.” Telecinco assured the PP that “if it is eventually confirmed that there were no bonus payments, we will be the first to inform our viewers.”