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Spain: More News, More Money

3 minute read

Spaniards who tuned in on news broadcasts last week got the surprise of a quarter-century. Since Francisco Franco installed himself as Spain’s dictator in 1938, every newscast had unfailingly ended with a ponderous salute to his Falangist Party and a martial rendition of the Falangist anthem. Last week, for the first time, news bulletins ended instead with a pleasant feminine voice bidding señores y señoras good day, followed by a few bars of a catchy paso doble.

In slow-moving Spain, change of any kind is rare and reluctant. Yet, almost imperceptibly the regime is beginning to relax its iron grip on society. Since his appointment as Franco’s Information Minister last July, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, 40, has boosted the daily ration of radio news from four to 18 broadcasts a day and for the first time allowed Spanish listeners a comparatively broad sampling of world events.

Tale of Pasionaria. Press censorship also has mellowed markedly. Newspapers are no longer given the old-style daily instrucciones that laid down what stories they could run and even dictated how they should be laid out. Though the country’s biggest dailies in Madrid and Barcelona are still subject to censorship, only 15 stories have been doctored by government officials since Fraga took over, and no foreign publications have been seized for political reasons.* In other cities, papers no longer are required to show galley proofs to the censors before going to press. One weekly is actually serialising the memoirs of Dolores Ibarruri, the fabled La Pasionaria of Civil War days, who is queen bee of Spain’s exiled Communist Party; her very name until recently was taboo in the Spanish press.

Of the eight prominent intellectuals arrested last year after denouncing Franco at a Munich conference, five have been pardoned and the rest allowed to go into voluntary exile. Franco’s uniformed state police, once everywhere, is now less obvious, less arrogant.

Gift for One-Fifth. Franco’s decision to end Spain’s long cultural and political isolation is based on his twofold conviction that 1) the populace as a whole now accepts his regime, and 2 ) Spain cannot survive economically if it is excluded from the European Common Market, whose members bitterly dislike his autocratic ways. The stubborn illegal strikes that crippled Spain’s economy for two months last year also forced el Caudillo to recognize that the country’s hard-pressed workers are desperately eager to enjoy living standards comparable to those of other Europeans.

As a gift to the hopelessly poor unskilled laborers who make up one-fifth of the work force, Franco last week announced an increase in the minimum wage that will almost double their take-home pay and fringe benefits (to $1.66 a day). Spain, said Franco, in a year-end TV and radio address, is now “a nation of peace, on the road to economic recuperation, with a capacity for growth in all sectors of its life, and with a youth that is technically prepared and eager to face the future.”

*TIME alone was banned or seized 54 times in eleven years by Fraga’s predecessor.

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