Delivering a Coup D’état: 23F and the Diminishing Role of Spanish Public Broadcaster RTVE in the Digital Era

Iván Darias, Vicente Rodríguez Ortega


The year 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of the so-called 23F, or the February 23, 1981, military coup d’état attempt that threatened democracy in Spain after the end of Francoism. In the last four decades, the canonical narrative about this event has been based on televisual images recorded in two main locations: the Congress, where a group of military men tried to seize power, and Zarzuela Palace, where King Juan Carlos I gave a speech supporting democracy. Radio Televisión Española (RTVE), then a monopolistic enterprise, captured and broadcast these events. This article analyzes the ways in which RTVE, a public service broadcaster (PSB), has managed this collective patrimony. Hence, it scrutinizes the role of PSBs and how they have evolved into digitally centered public service media. It compares RTVE’s coverage and positioning in the contemporary digital mediascape with other audiovisual materials in the ongoing 23F narrations. For that purpose, it details the available contents on RTVE’s website to determine how they are organized. Complementarily, it examines how 23F exists on YouTube to study alternative networks of exchange.


Spain, RTVE, public service broadcasting, public service media, coup d’état, YouTube

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