A hit TV show rises from the ashes of Spain's crisis

BARCELONA, Spain Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:29am EDT

Journalist Jordi Evole from Spain smiles during an interview with Reuters at Sant Just Desvern, near Barcelona April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Journalist Jordi Evole from Spain smiles during an interview with Reuters at Sant Just Desvern, near Barcelona April 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gustau Nacarino


Celebrity portraits

Up close and personal with famous faces.  Slideshow 

Related Topics

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Every Sunday evening up to 4.3 million people in Spain tune into a quirky but hard-hitting news show that has become an unlikely television success as crisis-plagued Spaniards try to figure out how their country got into the mess it is in.

On "Salvados", which means "Saved" in English, journalist Jordi Evole, 38, asks experts and ordinary people disarmingly simple questions to explain the costly bailout of Spain's banks or the looming hole in the pension system.

The program - with a style similar to the documentaries of U.S. activist filmmaker Michael Moore - has grabbed an audience share as high as 20 percent. It is the most-viewed Spanish television show on Sundays and as high as any other news show on any channel during the week.

Evole's informal approach - he wears a sweater with elbow patches - and willingness to take on tough topics have resonated in a country where a quarter of the workforce is jobless, bankruptcies are at a record high, banks have been bailed out, and the economy has been shrinking or stagnant for five years.

The crash - and drastic state budget cuts - followed a long economic boom in which Spaniards got used to get-rich-quick property investments and massive state spending on airports, highways, culture and arts, sports and stadiums.

"You know when a cartoon character runs into a wall, a big bump appears on his head and stars spin around him. Well, we're at that point in Spain, saying 'what the heck happened to us?'" Evole told Reuters about the inspiration for Salvados.

The Barcelona-based show has been on the air for five years, but its ratings took off last year as word-of-mouth spread.

Beyond the millions that watch the show on Sunday night, many more follow Salvados on the web and on social media. Evole has 911,000 Twitter followers who make sure the show is Spain's top "trending" topic on Twitter every Sunday night.

Luis Fernandez, 48, who worked in public housing for 24 years and lost his job a month and a half ago, is a typical fan. He feels Salvados both reflects his predicament and opens his eyes on important issues.

"The situation I'm in now was unthinkable to me just five years ago. It's a tragedy," Fernandez said. "No one gives you information about what's really going on in Greece and Portugal, the truth is people are scared," he said.

Many Spaniards fear Spain, which is wrestling with a high public deficit but has so far avoided a full international bailout, could follow Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus into deeper problems.

"In these times of tension, people need to know how things really work," said Javier Ganuza, 57, who has a business that repairs and sells electronics. He began watching the show to keep up with his children and friends who were always discussing it.

Spain is a relatively young democracy and the crisis has made people start to question all of the institutions that have brought it stability since the end of fascist rule in the 1970s: approval ratings have plunged for political parties, local and national government and even the once beloved royal family.

"Spain is going through a time when citizens are really questioning things. We are part of those people. We do the program to know what is going on and understand it. We ask really basic questions because we don't understand a lot of what's going on," Evole said.


Evole said one of his main goals is for Spain to hang on to its treasured social services, which are being scaled back with budget cuts.

The leftward slant of Salvados - which has criticized the government's electric power, education and other policies - does not make it popular with the centre-right government, which has faced a wave of demonstrations against unpopular cost-cutting measures.

"He asks false questions, he's always got the advantage," Education and Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert told Reuters of Evole. The host has acknowledged that he edits interviews to make his point.

Wert, an accomplished parliamentary debater, said he was sorely tempted to test wits with Evole on the show, which he says can be original and funny.

"Some foolish people around me in the education department were really for me going on the show but my son, who is more sensible, told me not even to think about it" said Wert.

Overall advertising spending in Spain continues to fall - it now stands at half of what it was in 2008 when the crisis began - but Salvados's popularity has brought rising revenues.

That gives the show a budget for a 30-person team and for travel to Germany, Iceland and elsewhere to show how other countries have dealt with banking and pension crises.

The show is a major hit for La Sexta, a channel that belongs to Atresmedia, which in turn is controlled by privately held Grupo Planeta. La Sexta has an average 6 percent audience share, which triples when Salvados is on.

"He puts on this naive look and tells very dramatic, very complex things, very simply," said Ricardo Vaca, president of Barlovento Comunicaciones a media consulting firm that produces audience share numbers for Spanish television.

"He's become a household name. These are issues people want to know about," Vaca said.

(Editing by Paul Day and Peter Graff)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
Millan wrote:
Ese Follonero !!!

Apr 11, 2013 2:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mayse wrote:
When Jordi Évole program “Saved” which airs on the Sixth: We call the program “Saved” a program devoted to ADHD.
From here we call on the leadership of the “Saved” featuring one Mr. Jordi Évole public correction on an issue as important as ADHD that was exposed in a totally biased and wrong in the program issued last Sunday 7/04 / 2013
No such information was contrasted with other doctors or specialists, nor with associations is where families find support. Believe have hurt people affected by this disorder and their families. We deserve respect and to be heard in the same way we had to listen to this unsubstantiated opinions Enrique Gavilan, of which the last responsible are those that give the nod and broadcast on television.
Families fighting took years for ADHD and is known to the people affected are given both in health and in the school, all treatments and resources necessary to improve their quality of life and training. So we are not willing to sit idly by and we demand a public withdrawal by a program dedicated to ADHD. We will be willing to help in everything in our power to make it.
Here we are not dealing with an issue banal as “giving the pill to be good,” ADHD is much more, are fighting for a reliable and accurate diagnosis are fights in schools to put our kids in the front row, control its agenda, given more time to take tests, I remember having a paper due, are fighting to keep calling them friends, struggles against the impotence of seeing your kids mourn because although striving fail, much time spent on homework from school, a lot of money on psychologists, tutoring, speech therapists, medication and so on.
We appeal to your common sense and intelligence of which we are sure you are not without hope and heed our requests.


Apr 11, 2013 4:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
aljub wrote:
Wert vs. Evole; an unequal combat based on IQ.

Apr 12, 2013 4:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.