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Linguistic pluralism and dubbing in Spain

Le pluralisme linguistique en Espagne et le doublage
Carlos Menéndez-Otero

Résumés

En 2011, Agustí Villaronga’s Pa Negre a remporté neuf récompenses aux Goyas et a été sélectionné pour représenter le cinéma espagnol aux Oscars. Cependant la langue originale du film, le catalan, a déplu à quelques esprits conservateurs. En conséquence, les médias espagnols n’ont cessé d’interroger l’essence espagnole du film ainsi que sa valeur artistique. En partant de ce constat, l’article vise à explorer la dynamique complexe et parfois contradictoire de la télévision et du cinéma en Espagne et plus spécifiquement dans les régions où une langue régionale est langue officielle au même titre que l’espagnol. Un apport sur l’histoire du doublage en Espagne précède une seconde partie sur la reconnaissance des langues régionales dans le pays et le rôle joué par les autorités locales dans cette normalisation. En conclusion l’article atteste que les films américains doublés en espagnol continuent d’être prépondérants dans la distribution espagnole en dépit des efforts financiers consentis par les gouvernements régionaux pour augmenter la production cinématographique en galicien, en basque et en catalan.

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Introduction

1In late September 2010, Pa Negre, a Catalan-spoken film by Agustí Villaronga, premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival and was subsequently released in Spain, with 35 prints in Catalan and 30 prints in Spanish. The original cast are bilingual in Catalan and Spanish—as are the vast majority of Catalans—and except for thick-accented Francesc Colomer dubbed their own voices for the Spanish version.

  • 1 Among those most offended was La Gaceta (15/02/11), an extreme-right newspaper that discredited the (...)
  • 2 For instance, Libertad Digital launched an ad-hoc online forum on the issue.

2Even though Pa Negre was widely praised by film critics, it went largely unnoticed at the box office. As a consequence, when nominations and awards began in early 2011, Pa Negre had long come off everywhere but ten screens in Barcelona. However, no sooner had the film garnered nine Goya Awards, including best feature film, than the conservative media dovecotes were badly fluttered.1 To make matters worse, on September 29, 2011, Pa Negre was chosen as Spain’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, thus becoming the first Spanish film in a language other than Spanish to be so honored. Conservative media alarms sounded wildly about the alleged inappropriateness of a film in Catalan representing Spain at the Academy Awards,2 although Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution recognizes the country’s regional languages and allows for their co-officiality with Spanish whenever such is established in the statute of autonomy of a region.

3In the politically charged climate of the Zapatero governments, there was no room for celebration of Spain’s multilingualism. The right-wing media rushed to associate Pa Negre to the linguistic policies of the Generalitat (i.e., the Catalonia regional government), the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and the 2010 Catalonia Film Law, which the conservative People’s Party (PP) bitterly opposed on the grounds that they seriously threatened the unity of Spain. More specifically, the increasing number of subsidies and awards to films in Catalan was maligned as evidence of a Catalan separatist plan to fully de-Hispanicize Catalonia to make Catalan the only language spoken in the region and eventually lead to a Catalonian secession from Spain. Moreover, although Castilian Spanish-dubbed versions of US films reigned supreme at the Catalonia box office, the fact that a 50 % Catalan dubbing quota was in the process of being enforced at the region’s film venues added fuel to the smear campaign against Pa Negre.

4This paper purports to explore how theatrical film dubbing has become the ultimate battleground for regional language normalization in Spain. First, it looks briefly into the history of the dominance of Spanish-dubbed versions of US films on the country’s big and small screens. Second, it considers how regional pubcasters have resorted to dubbing to move forward the normalization of co-official regional languages with varying degrees of success. Third, it details the recent dispute arising from the Generalitat’s decision to enforce linguistic parity at Catalonia movie houses. Finally, the paper assesses the current state of theatrical film dubbing in Galicia and the Basque Country, and further discusses why theatrical film dubbing is still a pending issue for regional language normalization in Spain.

A brief history of dubbing in Spain, c. 1930–1975

  • 3 For that very reason, in the silent era, a film explainer was available at most film venues.

5It is little remembered today, but English and French were the first languages heard onscreen in Spain in the early 1930s. Even though the initial amazement at synchronized sound filled theaters for a while and subtitles were soon available, foreign language films had little chance of sustained success in a country where illiteracy was at 32 % in 1930.3 The majors dabbled briefly with producing Spanish language versions of their films in Hollywood, but that was quickly abandoned and replaced by dubbing, which can be defined as « reemplazar la banda de los diálogos originales por otra banda en la que estos diálogos aparecen traducidos a la lengua término y en sincronía con la imagen  » (Chaves 2000, 44). Paramount Pictures took the lead and soon started dubbing many of its films into 14 different European languages at Des Reservoirs Studios in France. It was there that Paramount’s Devil and the Deep (Marion Gering, 1931) became the first film to be dubbed into Castilian Spanish for commercial distribution in Spain.

  • 4 Javier Dotú (2008, 6), however, argues that a draft of the ministerial order was leaked to the trad (...)
  • 5 Among the most famous examples of censorship in the Franco era, references to the Spanish Civil War (...)

6Some undubbed films were still available before the Civil War, but as early as 1932, dubbed prints had already become the norm in Spain. Amid warnings about the dangers of dubbing for the national film industry, the first Spanish dubbing studios were set up in Barcelona and Madrid in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Nearly a decade later, with General Franco already in power, a ministerial order on April 23, 1941, made Castilian Spanish dubbing compulsory for every foreign film intended to be shown at Spanish theaters4—with the sole exceptions of cartoons and family films, which would be dubbed into neutral Spanish in the Americas until the early 1990s. The order, which also forbade distributors to dub abroad, had a twofold aim: a) to strengthen the linguistic unity of Spain, and b) to reduce the risk of immoral or subversive foreign ideas being overlooked by the censors (Gubern, 1975).5

  • 6 According to Fernando Méndez-Leite, director of the Madrid Film School, «A finales de los años 50, (...)

7In December 1946, the ministerial order was ruled out, and original versions with Spanish subtitles were legally allowed under certain conditions at the country’s theaters (De Miguel 2002, 3). However, almost none were screened until the mid-1970s.6 Consequently, when the national public television service, Televisión Española (TVE), started broadcasting in 1956, it was only natural that it did so in Castilian Spanish. Well into the 1970s, however, limited resources meant that TVE could not afford to dub US series (to which it had acquired broadcasting rights) into Castilian Spanish. Legendary series such as Perry Mason (1957–1966), Bewitched (1964–1972), Batman (1966–1968), Get Smart (1965–1970) and The High Chaparral (1967–1971), among many others, aired originally in Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish in Spain.

Broadcasting decentralization and regional language normalization

  • 7 In addition, Aranese was granted co-official status in the Aran Valley, Asturian-Leonese was recogn (...)

8Besides democratic rule and censorship abolition, General Franco’s death in 1975 brought a resurgence of long-repressed and nearly extinct regional identities, cultures and languages throughout Spain, especially in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia. Accordingly, not only did the Constitution of 1978 and the subsequent regional statutes make provision for devolution but also for the active protection and promotion of such heritage at all levels, including media. Galician was granted co-official status with Spanish in Galicia, Basque in the Basque Country and some areas of Navarre, and Catalan in Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands.7

9With the goal of normalizing these languages in everyday use, putting regional cultures on screen and catalyzing the development of a decentralized audiovisual industry, various regional public broadcasting services were established in the Basque Country (Euskal Telebista [ETB]), Catalonia (Televisió de Catalunya [TVC]) and Galicia (Televisión de Galicia [TVG]) in 1982, 1983 and 1985, respectively. In 1986, aware of poor understanding in the Basque language of about 85 % of its target audience, ETB renamed its channel in Basque as ETB-1, stopped broadcasting with Spanish subtitles and opened the door to regional television in Spanish by creating a Spanish-only channel, ETB-2. By 2010, every region but two in Spain had established its own pubcaster.

10Notwithstanding, Catalan and Basque nationalist political parties were very interested in controlling media at a regional level ; regional broadcasting in Spain could have developed similarly to BBC regional divisions. In fact, TVE first aired a program in Catalan, Teatro Catalán, from its headquarters in Barcelona as early as 1964. By 1975, TVE was broadcasting 17 hours a month in Catalan, rising to 83 by the end of the decade (TVE Catalunya 2008a, 2008b). In the Basque Country, the TVE local news program Euskalerria had a regular slot in Basque from 1975 to 1978 (Barambones 2009, 72). It was also TVE that had Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) dubbed into Basque and broadcast it with Spanish subtitles in 1986 (Doblaje en el País Vasco 2011).

  • 8 Commercial television eventually started broadcasting in 1990.

11While decentralization of the television service was still being discussed in Parliament, home video spread in Spain and commercial television entered the political agenda.8 Anticipating that existing studios in Madrid and Barcelona would be unable to cope with the workload, dubbing studios were established in Galicia, Valencia, Seville and the Basque Country in the early 1980s.

12The regional dubbing industry thrived up to the early 2000s (except for a brief crisis between 1992 and 1994), as TVC, ETB and TVG were generously funded—especially TVC—so they could buy broadcasting rights to commercial feature films, series and cartoons and have them dubbed into the co-official regional language of each broadcasting area. As a result, TVC had had 8,304 films and 601 series dubbed by 2007 (Servei Català del Doblatge 2007), roughly 2,500 hours of content per year at an average yearly cost of nearly € 20 million. More recently, last February, TVC was granted € 32 million to have 2,000 hours of content dubbed over the next four years (Menchén 23/02/12). By contrast, ETB dubbing costs (which had escalated to over € 7 million per year by 1990) were already less than € 2 million by 1998 (Barambones op. cit., 145–147) and have not risen since. Finally, TVG—which would dub around 2,000 hours of content per year in the late 1980s—currently has a yearly dubbing budget of about € 5 million (Correa 20/10/08) and, therefore, lies in middle ground between TVC and ETB.

13It should be pointed out that Disney Club-like children’s magazine shows have been given special priority on the regional pubcasters’ program grids as essential—and significantly cheaper—tools for normalization, especially since most free-to-air national broadcasters took children’s programs off their grids during the 1990s and early 2000s. Highly successful among younger audiences, TVC’s Club Super3 (1991–) and TVG’s Xabarín Club (1994–) have made invaluable contributions to the normalization and survival of Catalan and Galician, respectively. Although ETB-1 has been far less successful than TVC, TVG or even ETB-2, it has been airing all ETB children’s programs for some time now (Barambones, op. cit.).

14As regards national broadcasters, TVE has continued broadcasting in regional languages in the Basque Country, Galicia and especially Catalonia. The private networks, however, have shown interest in normalization twice : 1) Antena 3 aired The Simpsons (1989–) in Catalan in Catalonia between the late 1990s and early 2000s, and 2) in 2009, Tele 5 syndicated some of its series to the digital terrestrial television (DTT) network Canal Català, which had them dubbed into Catalan (Plataforma per la Llengua 14/10/10).

  • 9 Aware of the complaint, the Generalitat launched the TVC-dependent Catalan Dubbing Service in 2005. (...)
  • 10 For example, in 2006, film and DVD distributor Cameo complained that it had been unable to include (...)
  • 11 The Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community grants a rather controversial co-official status (...)

15ETB, TVG and TVC have often taken advantage of this Spanish language-dominated media landscape to keep criticism at bay, and yet they have been far from controversy-free. First, distributors and audiences have often complained that ETB, TVG and (albeit to a lesser extent) TVC9 have actually prevented many films and series in regional languages from reaching the DVD market by making the dubbed dialogue tracks (to which they have exclusive rights) unaffordable for most distributors.10 Second, regional dubbing studios, still largely dependent on ETB, TVG and TVC for their economic survival, have regularly accused pubcasters of dubious procurement practices. Third, as explained later, audiences and dubbing actors’ guilds have questioned the linguistic quality of regional language dubbing, comparing it unfavorably to Castilian Spanish. Fourth, ETB, TVG and TVC have also been accused of linguistic expansionism for intentionally sending their signals into Navarre, the Principality of Asturias, and the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands, respectively.11 Finally, regular broadcasting of dubbed versions of Spanish language films has been increasingly criticized as an overzealous waste of public resources.

  • 12 Oddly enough, the dubbing industry, for which dubbing into regional languages is paramount to norma (...)
  • 13 In fact, in a recent survey carried out by the Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación (2011, 20) (...)

16Perhaps the way out of these controversies lies in the original versions of films and series. However, despite worries among the 30,000 people in the dubbing industry about the rising interest in versiones originales for artistic, cultural and educational reasons (respect for the work of actors, understanding of cultural diversity and foreign language learning,12 respectively), even the advent of DVD/Blu-Ray and DTT has not substantially altered the habits of Spanish small-screen audiences, most of whom still choose dubbed versions.13 Therefore, it seems very unlikely that original-language tracks will become the default audio option on DTT broadcasts within two years—as recommended in a recent report by the Commission on Foreign Language Audiovisual Exhibition, formed at the request of the Departments of Culture and Education (Camps et al. 2011, 6).

Theatrical film dubbing in regional languages: 2010 Catalonia Film Law

  • 14 As of 2011, 40 of them were located in Madrid and Barcelona (Reino 2011).
  • 15 Although the Executive Order 19/1993 is mostly remembered for having established a 50% European fil (...)

17Regarding the big screen, according to the Spanish Department of Culture, about 85% of foreign theatrical releases are screened dubbed every year (Sardá 07/01/11). As of 2010, only 12514 of 4,080 screens showed undubbed films on a regular basis. Overall, foreign language film screenings attracted 3.37 million people or 3.31 % of the total film audience in 2010—1.56 % below the peak of 2009 (Ministerio de Cultura 2011). It should also be noted that about 90 % of dubbed theatrical releases are available only in Castilian Spanish (Suárez 15/08/09 ; Orovio 07/03/09)—in spite of the fact that, over the last two decades, distributors and exhibitors have been granted plenty of incentives and subsidies so they can dub their releases into the country’s recognized regional languages virtually free of cost.15

18Amid ever-increasing criticism of the amount of public money spent on dubbing, as well as periodical political accusations of noncommitment from distributors, the film industry has repeatedly argued that lack of social demand makes film exhibition in regional languages utterly nonviable unless public funding makes up the losses. In the absence of a viable market, the industry considers such exhibition a burdensome political imposition for which it is rightfully entitled to be compensated, especially in times of dwindling audiences.

  • 16 Catalan original-version films were the only exception to such a negative trend, as they increased (...)

19As proof of its claim, the industry has remarked that even in Catalonia, where 95 % of the population understands the regional language (Generalitat de Catalunya – Direcció General de Política Lingüística 2011, 239), whenever both Spanish- and Catalan-dubbed prints of a film are available at a multiplex, an average of 78.2 % people choose the former. Thus, for instance, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008) came out in Catalonia with 16 prints in Spanish and 36 prints in Catalan, but the average gross per Spanish-dubbed print was five times higher (Child 05/03/09). Furthermore, a summer 2011 survey of more than 30,000 people by the Fundación Audiencias de la Comunicación y la Cultura (FUNDACC) showed that approximately 72 % of the 64 % of Catalans who prefer dubbed versions also prefer Spanish dubbing (FUNDACC 2011, 32). Corresponding to these data, the Generalitat’s Informe de Política Lingüística 2010, also released in summer 2011, points out that the total audience for Catalan-dubbed and Catalan-subtitled films shrank from 653,268 to 259,484 between 2004 and 2010 (Generalitat de Catalunya – Direcció General de Política Lingüística op. cit. 299).16

  • 17 Notwithstanding, at least until the mid-1990s, Spanish audiences (with the sole exception of those (...)
  • 18 Although the market share of TV3, TVC’s flagship channel, shrank from 21.2% to 14.1% between 2000 a (...)

20Recurring counter-evidence to the lack of social demand are unavailability of prints in regional languages and the significant market share of regional television17—especially in Catalonia.18 Nevertheless, only the Generalitat has proactively attempted to break the linguistic status quo with the introduction in 2010 of the highly controversial 50 % Catalan language dubbing quota.

21The quota was intended to replace the gentleman’s agreement that the Generalitat and the industry reached in 2000, right after a period of feuding over dubbing. In 1998, the Generalitat passed regulations demanding that at least 25 % of the films shown in Catalan theaters were to be either shot or dubbed in Catalan, under threat of fines for noncompliant distributors and exhibitors. After threatening to withdraw distribution in the region, the film industry successfully appealed the regulations, which had to be revoked. The Generalitat backed down and agreed to fully cover dubbing and subtitling costs, allowing the industry to freely pick titles and the number of prints to be screened in Catalan.

22For the period 2000–2011, the market share of films in Catalan averaged slightly over 3 %, undoubtedly corresponding with theatrical availability. In summer 2008, Joan Manel Tresserras—a known separatist who took over as Catalonia Minister of Culture and Media in late 2006—asked for a substantial increase in the number of Catalan-dubbed prints, which he and other members of the regional government deemed insufficient. The industry flatly refused and once more claimed that, when given the choice, most Catalan cinemagoers opt for Spanish-dubbed prints. Bitterly disappointed in the industry, the government warned that the regional film law was to make provision for the right of Catalan audiences to choose the language in which they watch their films.

  • 19 To provide an example, independent distributor Enrique G. Macho said in El País, «Los catalanes van (...)

23As 2009 progressed, successive preliminary drafts showed that the Generalitat was determined to enforce linguistic parity between Spanish and Catalan at film venues through taxes, fees and up to € 75,000 fines on the industry, also to be charged with dubbing and subtitling costs. The industry argued that, given the lack of social demand for films in Catalan, linguistic parity would make film exhibition commercially nonviable. It gloomily forecast a decline in profits of up to 80 %, substantial shrinking in the number of releases, closure of dozens of theaters, loss of about 1,800 jobs, and the eventual full withdrawal of distribution19—a warning to other Spanish and European regions with recognized minority languages against following the Catalonia suit.

24Willing to show the regional government what could happen if the draft became law, film exhibitors gave away free tickets for December 12 to commercial films in Catalan at 53 screens. The fact that 92 % of moviegoers chose to see paid-for prints in Spanish did not discourage the Generalitat from submitting a final unamended draft to the regional assembly in early 2010. Then, on February 1, about 75 % of Catalonia movie houses closed in protest of the incoming legislation.

25The film bill eventually passed on June 30, 2010, with a 90 % majority in the regional assembly. It has imposed a seven-year deadline for distributors to dub into the local language a minimum of 50 % of the prints of any non-European film showing on more than 15 screens—except those shot in either Catalan or Spanish. In addition, the new law obliged them to include a Catalan language option on every DVD distributed in the region. The film industry immediately retaliated by filing complaints against the Film Law in Spanish and European courts.

  • 20 To be eligible for subsidies in 2012, for which €950,000 have finally been allocated, distributors (...)

26It was more than a year before the Generalitat and the film industry buried the hatchet and reached an agreement on September 26, 2011 : fifty multiplexes will have a permanent Catalan-only commercial screen, and a total of 625 prints of 25 blockbusters and commercial films will be dubbed into Catalan through 2012. The Generalitat expects distributors to begin an upward movement that will raise the market share of films in Catalan to 11 % in 2012, to 25 % in 2014, to 35 % in 2017 and to 50 % in 2018. For its part, the Generalitat has de facto ruled out fines and charges stipulated in the Film Law and agreed to annually allocate up to € 1.4 million in subsidies for dubbing and subtitling—more than twice the amount for 2010, effective immediately20 (Generalitat de Catalunya – Departament de Cultura 26/09/11).

27As previously explained, Catalonia has been exceptional among Spain’s bilingual regions in imposing a dubbing quota, which has not been pursued in the Basque Country, Galicia or either of the other two Catalan-speaking regions. In fact, very few adults ever see films in Basque in the Basque Country, and both the regional government and the film industry remain staunchly opposed to introducing a Catalonia-like quota. Instead, the government allocates around € 1 million annually to Zinema Euskaraz, an initiative aimed at promoting the distribution and exhibition of films in Basque at theaters and on the ETB website. Twenty-some commercial films, mostly addressed to young audiences, are dubbed into Basque and run to packed houses for an average of two weeks every year. In this vein, in October 2011, the Basque government started sponsoring the audience-building scheme Zineuskara Gizartean, which has since allowed 40,000 schoolchildren aged 3–12 and their teachers—who have also been provided with film guides for use in the classroom—to attend a total of six family films in Basque during school hours. By continuing to compensate box office losses with public funds, the Basque government ultimately expects to talk the film industry into both creating a year-round Basque cinema circuit and dubbing up to five blockbusters per season into Basque (Elortegui 14/03/09).

  • 21 The cost of up to five prints in Galician of the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise (...)

28In Galicia, the Plan xeral de normalización da lingua galega stipulates that at least ten commercial theatrical releases be dubbed into Galician with public support every year (Xunta de Galicia – Secretaría Xeral de Política Lingüística 2006, 133). However, this goal has not been met and is unlikely to be achieved in the near future. Just six theatrical releases—mostly animation films and local co-productions with limited box office appeal—and eight Shin Chan and Doraemon straight-to-DVD releases were dubbed into Galician with public support in 2007 and in 2008 (Correa 20/10/08). Nevertheless, following the controversial theatrical release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008), which came out with no prints in Galician, the regional government announced that public support for theatrical film dubbing would be discontinued because of high costs21 and noncommitment from distributors, with funds diverted to promote the use of Galician on television, mobile devices and the Internet.

  • 22 This period lasted nearly three decades, from 1947 to the mid-1970s, and was ushered in by the Span (...)
  • 23 Ávila (1997a, 78) and Agost (1999, 17, 65–66) mention that lip synch is mostly dependent on onscree (...)
  • 24 Such rush, already noticeable in the 1980s, is currently soaring to unprecedented heights; in a mov (...)

29Apart from commercial and political issues, a recurring argument to explain the failure of regional language dubbing to take off has been that it is usually worse than Castilian Spanish dubbing, which may have long left its golden age22 but is still reputed as among the best in the world. The main reasons for such praise lie in precise lip synchronization23 and careful voice casting that characterize most Spanish-dubbed films and series, effectively creating the illusion that Hollywood stars do speak Spanish—or at least the variety (overabundant in calques from English) that results from synch-dependent, increasingly rushed24 and often politically skewed translations and adjustments of foreign dialogue tracks.

  • 25 « Entre els consumidors de productes doblats, la qualitat estilística dels diàlegs no acostuma a en (...)

30In fact, we dare say that Castilian Spanish versions are the standard that regional language dubbing has been trying to meet for the last thirty years (Comes 2007, 49–50 ; Iglesia 2008, 111–114). On the one hand, it could be argued that the aim of normalization has placed regional language dubbing in a subordinate position by trying to replicate, regionally, the very tradition from which it originally arose. On the other hand, it could also be argued that in a country where lip synch is synonymous with quality dubbing,25 the very aim of normalization has been a major obstacle to social recognition of regional language dubbing.

  • 26 The Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (CCMA), the public service broadcasting corporation (...)
  • 27 Catalan dubbing has « el factor afegit de ser un vehicle al servei de la normalització lingüística, (...)

31Set on linguistic prescription, TVC, ETB and TVG quickly hired language consultants and started publishing translation and language style guides26 to ensure that dubbing conformed to the varieties that the respective regional government—in a zeal for linguistic unity—wished to standardize.27 As Alejandro Ávila points out,

[…] los políticos de la democracia española han sido muy conscientes de la importancia del doblaje en cuanto a sus efectos sobre el lenguaje utilizado por el pueblo. Éste es uno de los motivos por el que las comunidades con idiomas en régimen de cooficialidad se lanzaron a la caza de la mayor cantidad posible de permisos para gestionar medios de comunicación. Es obvio que para conseguir una normalización lingüística es imprescindible controlar el “cómo se dice”. Por tanto, el doblaje constituye uno de los aspectos en que el poder suele realizar un seguimiento ; ya sea por el bien común, en el caso del control filológico de los diálogos, o negativamente, en el caso de cualquier tipo de censura aplicada. (1997a, 24)

  • 28 Such is the case in Galicia, where TVG’s language has often been discredited as a patois of Spanish (...)
  • 29 « […] la pantalla de televisión es más pequeña y “disimula” los problemas de sincronía visual, mien (...)
  • 30 For instance, Manuel, the clumsy Spanish waiter from Barcelona in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, (...)

32Beyond the somewhat artificial nature of such variety, usually discredited as posh and too (dis)similar to Castilian Spanish,28 complaints include that language consultants have shown little or no regard for lip synchronization, which in turn has rendered much regional language dubbing fit only for small-screen television, especially cartoons, where synch problems are far less noticeable.29 On top of that, even though it goes largely unnoticed, the combined influence of the Spanish dubbing tradition and the normalizing zeal of regional governments has led to dubbed foreign dialogue being subject to 1) geographical and social standardization (Goris 1993, 173) and 2) subtle forms of censorship posing as naturalization (ibid. 177).30

Conclusion

  • 31 « Mi opinión es que es difícil que este cambio de mentalidad tenga lugar en un futuro próximo. Es s (...)

33Much to critics’ chagrin, Spain has been a dubbing country since at least 1932. In fact, more than a decade after Agost (1999, 46) and Mayoral (2001, 42–43) (among others) thought they were witnessing the early stages of a shift to subtitling, dubbing is still alive and well, as Zaro rightly predicted in 2001.31 DVD/Blu-Ray and DTT have been unable to break this well-established social habit, and it seems unlikely that original language DTT broadcasts or the imminent digitalization of theaters may get a different outcome as long as dubbed versions of series and films are easily available in Spain.

34The dubbing industry, therefore, has no reason to worry. It may save itself from the inconvenience of defending its trade as essential for normalization while questioning the usefulness of original versions for learning foreign languages—if only because many people have been learning Catalan, Galician and Basque as if they were foreign languages, whereas some others have come to regard Spanish, rather than English, as the foreign language from which dubbing must protect regional languages. Be that as it may, it is well beyond the scope of this paper to determine whether dubbing or subtitling provides better protection against what hegemonic social groups deem as foreign influence.

35What this paper has stated is that dubbing has effectively contributed to normalizing Catalan, Galician and Basque. Well aware of the importance of dubbing, despite criticism from audiences and dubbing professionals alike, the regional governments of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia created dependent pubcasters in the early 1980s. These pubcasters were empowered to carefully monitor the language used in film and television dubbing, and ensure its compliance with the linguistic, cultural and political standards the regional governments wished to promote. Therefore, regional language dubbing may be far closer to linguistic norms—but that has come at a price : It is socially perceived as less natural, synchronized and suitable for the big screen than is Castilian Spanish.

36Regional language dubbing has certainly flourished on television. However, in spite of generous incentives and subsidies to distributors and exhibitors, a combination of audience habit, film industry interests and social perception has hindered its progress on the big screen, where 9 out of every 10 films are available only in Castilian Spanish.

37Determined to raise the number of theatrical films in Catalan, the Generalitat alienated the film industry by introducing a 50 % Catalan dubbing quota in 2010. After long and strenuous negotiations, distributors and exhibitors reluctantly agreed to meet the quota by 2018, provided that the Generalitat’s optimistic prospects for demand are met.

38The long-term effects of the Catalonia Film Law remain to be seen. Nevertheless, in the last few months, most distributors and exhibitors have continued to insist on the lack of demand for films in Catalan, especially in the suburban areas of Barcelona. Up to the time of writing, some distributors have expressed satisfaction at the box office performance of the Catalan-dubbed version of The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011) ; however, Millennium : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011) has fallen well below expectations (Castelló 12/03/12).

39Finally, as regards original versions in Catalan, it is true that Pa Negre grossed more than any other film ever made in that language. However, media scaremongers ought not to overlook that out of all the projects supported by the Generalitat in 2010, only Buried (Rodrigo Cortés, 2011)—shot in English and mostly screened in Spanish in Catalonia—has recouped its costs and made money.

Webgraphy

40Asociación de Actores de Doblaje de Madrid. 2012 (2007), retrieved 28/04/12. www.adoma.es

41Asociación de Profesionais da Rama Artística da Dobraxe de Galicia. 2011 (2009), retrieved 12/03/12. http://www.apradoga.org

42Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación. Cómo valoran los espectadores la implantación de la TDT. 2011, retrieved 25/05/12. www.auc.es/Documentos/Documentos %20AUC/Docum2011/2011_09_INFORME_COMO_VALORAN_LOS_ESPECTADORES_LA_IMPLANTACION_DE_ %20LA_TDT.pdf

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44Bassols M. et al. (coord.). « La qualitat de la llengua a la televisió en català ». Informe sobre l’audiovisual a Catalunya 2009. Consell Audiovisual de Catalunya. 01/09/04, retrieved 18/05/12, p. 231-264. http://www.cac.cat/​pfw_files/​cma/​recerca/​altres/​informe2003.pdf

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Notes

1 Among those most offended was La Gaceta (15/02/11), an extreme-right newspaper that discredited the awards as a rip-off orchestrated by homosexual, radical and Catalan members of the Spanish Film Academy, pointing out the subsidized nature of Spanish cinema and its dwindling domestic market. Other less-extreme media, such as the economic daily Expansión, scrutinized the €3.3 million—82% of the total budget—in public funding granted to Pa Negre, and compared it unfavorably with the film’s box office (García 18/01/11) of €2.63 million after three re-releases during 2011 (Cinemanía 28/09/11). They also emphasized that €1.6 million had come from the pubcaster Televisió de Catalunya and the creative industries agency Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals, both dependent on the Catalonia Department of Culture and Media.

2 For instance, Libertad Digital launched an ad-hoc online forum on the issue.

3 For that very reason, in the silent era, a film explainer was available at most film venues.

4 Javier Dotú (2008, 6), however, argues that a draft of the ministerial order was leaked to the trade magazine Primer Plano, but neither that nor anything similar was ever published in Spain’s official gazette, Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE). Therefore, he concludes that the countlessly quoted order never became an actual law.

5 Among the most famous examples of censorship in the Franco era, references to the Spanish Civil War in Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) and The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947) were edited out. Also intent on eliding all references to adultery, the Spanish censor of Mogambo (John Ford, 1953) transformed the love triangle into an incestuous relationship between siblings Linda (Grace Kelly) and Donald (Donald Sinden).

6 According to Fernando Méndez-Leite, director of the Madrid Film School, «A finales de los años 50, las distribuidoras norteamericanas intentaron exhibir dos películas, La ley de la horca y La montaña siniestra, en inglés y con subtítulos. Debió ser un fracaso comercial y no se repitió el tema.» (Pantaleoni 23/03/08). Nevertheless, in 1963, West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961) was actually screened in English in Spain.

7 In addition, Aranese was granted co-official status in the Aran Valley, Asturian-Leonese was recognized in the Principality of Asturias and some parts of Castile and Leon, and Aragonese was recognized in Aragon.

8 Commercial television eventually started broadcasting in 1990.

9 Aware of the complaint, the Generalitat launched the TVC-dependent Catalan Dubbing Service in 2005. Currently endowed with about a €3 million annual budget, it aims at providing cost-free dubbed tracks of feature films to broadcasters and DVD distributors.

10 For example, in 2006, film and DVD distributor Cameo complained that it had been unable to include a Galician language option on the DVD sets of the series Fawlty Towers (1975–1979), Yes Minister (1980–1988) and The Young Ones (1982–1984) because TVG’s rates were much higher than TVC’s or ETB’s. It also regretted that the Galician-dubbed tracks for Blackadder (1983–1989) had been handed in at the eleventh hour and hence had not made it onto the DVD set either (Cameo 02/03/06).

11 The Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community grants a rather controversial co-official status to Valencian as a distinct language, not a dialect, from Catalan. In the Balearic Islands, Majorcan, Menorcan, Ibizan and Formenteran are recognized as local varieties of the Catalan language.

12 Oddly enough, the dubbing industry, for which dubbing into regional languages is paramount to normalization, has been arguing lately that original versions are useless for learning foreign languages, adding that the rather poor knowledge of English in Spain has nothing to do with the longstanding dominance of dubbed content on the country’s screens.

13 In fact, in a recent survey carried out by the Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación (2011, 20), the DTT language option was regarded as an asset by about 22% of viewers.

14 As of 2011, 40 of them were located in Madrid and Barcelona (Reino 2011).

15 Although the Executive Order 19/1993 is mostly remembered for having established a 50% European film quota at Spanish theaters, it already encouraged the use of minority languages by allowing exhibitors to lower the quota to 33% if they chose to screen regional language-dubbed prints. An additional dubbing license was granted per every €300,000 grossed by a foreign film in Spanish and per every €120,000 grossed by a foreign film in Catalan, Basque or Galician. At the regional level, it should be noted that the Generalitat has been subsidizing the theatrical release of films in Catalan since at least 1991 (Ávila 1997a, 25).

16 Catalan original-version films were the only exception to such a negative trend, as they increased their audience from 52,376 to 419,161 between 2004 and 2010, mostly due to the success of Pa Negre (Generalitat de Catalunya – Direcció General de Política Lingüística 2011, 301).

17 Notwithstanding, at least until the mid-1990s, Spanish audiences (with the sole exception of those from Catalonia) also preferred Castilian Spanish-dubbed films on the small screen (Ávila 1997a, 24).

18 Although the market share of TV3, TVC’s flagship channel, shrank from 21.2% to 14.1% between 2000 and 2011, it is still the market leader in Catalonia (Instituto de Estadística de Cataluña 2012; Consell Audiovisual de Catalunya 2011, 372). Neither TVG nor ETB-1 has ever been the market leader in its respective territory, though. TVG’s share dropped from 19% to 12.3% in the period 2000–2010 (López and Aneiros, 2010; Pato 10/03/12). After peaking at 10% in 2007, ETB’s share decreased to 7.6% in 2010 (Observatorio Vasco de la Cultura 2008, 3; Barambones 2009, 84; Instituto Vasco de Estadística 2012).

19 To provide an example, independent distributor Enrique G. Macho said in El País, «Los catalanes van a tener que ir a ver cine a Perpiñán o a Zaragoza […] Si yo traigo a España la película brasileña Estómago y me obligan a doblar la mitad de las copias al catalán, no sale rentable. Si esto sale adelante, desaparecerá la distribución y la exhibición en Cataluña, la independiente y la de las majors.» (Serra and García 05/03/09)

20 To be eligible for subsidies in 2012, for which €950,000 have finally been allocated, distributors must release their films in either Catalan or Spanish and Catalan. A minimum of 25 Catalan-dubbed prints must be available when the total is at least 50; a minimum of 12 when the total is between 30 and 49, and a minimum of 12 otherwise. Further, when the total is more than 30, at least two prints in Catalan must be released in the City of Barcelona (Generalitat de Catalunya – Departament de Cultura 02/02/12, 4290–4292).

21 The cost of up to five prints in Galician of the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise was estimated at between €40,000 and €70,000 (Montero 24/05/08). The Catalan dubbing subsidies for 2009 quite bear out the estimation:

The Walt Disney Company Iberia, por ejemplo, recibió el año pasado 127.054,15 euros como subvención al “doblaje al catalán, copia y promoción de 12 copias del largometraje Up”. Entre las películas subvencionadas están también Ice Age 3. El origen de los dinosaurios, por la que Hispano Foxfilm recibió 92.500 euros. La Paramount Spain se embolsó, asimismo, 79.380,44 euros por doblar Monsters vs Aliens, mientras que Vértigo Films recibió 70.100 euros por traducir Los hombres que no amaban a las mujeres y Universal Pictures International Spain, otros 69.000 euros por el doblaje de Los mundos de Coraline. (Fernández 06/01/10)

By comparison, a 90-minute film for television broadcast can be dubbed into Galician for roughly €6,000 (De Santos 04/03/12).

22 This period lasted nearly three decades, from 1947 to the mid-1970s, and was ushered in by the Spanish version of Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939), regarded as the best dub ever made (Ávila 1997a, 25).

23 Ávila (1997a, 78) and Agost (1999, 17, 65–66) mention that lip synch is mostly dependent on onscreen lip movement time and (bi)labial consonant pronunciation, especially on close shots.

24 Such rush, already noticeable in the 1980s, is currently soaring to unprecedented heights; in a move to combat Internet piracy, Spanish broadcasters are delivering dubbed versions of the most popular series as close to their US premiere dates as possible (Marcos 05/03/12).

25 « Entre els consumidors de productes doblats, la qualitat estilística dels diàlegs no acostuma a entrar en les seves consideracions quan fan judicis de valor sobre les pel·lícules que han vist. Si mai algú fa cap referència a la qualitat d’un doblatge, aquesta referència no sol anar més enllà dels aspectes tècnics: és a dir, una pel·lícula es qualificarà de ben doblada o mal doblada segons el grau de sincronització del text amb la imatge, però aquí s’acaba la valoració. No sembla que ningú es plantegi el grau de versemblança idiomàtica, de creativitat y de naturalitat dels diàlegs pugui incidir en absolut en la seva recepció d’una pel·lícula o d’una sèrie televisiva. » (Sellent 2001, 120)

26 The Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (CCMA), the public service broadcasting corporation to which TVC belongs, has been publishing comprehensive style guides since 1997. All these materials, as well as many other journalism and Catalan language resources, are currently available on the website Llibre d’estil de la CCMA (2010).

27 Catalan dubbing has « el factor afegit de ser un vehicle al servei de la normalització lingüística, cosa que implica la presencia d’uns mecanismes de control lingüístic en el procés de producció […] l’únic que garanteixen és un control de les desviacions dels textos respecte a la normativa lingüística vigent » (Sellent 2001, 121). Galician translator Xosé Castro complains that « varios colegas míos gallegos y catalanes prefieren, siempre que pueden, hacer traducciones al castellano antes que hacerlas al gallego o al catalán y tener que pasar lo que denominan, y cito literalmente, “una revisión encorsetada y corta de miras de su traducción desde un punto de vista normativo”. » (2001, 136)

28 Such is the case in Galicia, where TVG’s language has often been discredited as a patois of Spanish and Galician. Dubbing actor Luís Iglesia (2008, 111) considers that that is due to Galician dubbing studios and training schools being located in A Coruña, Vigo, Ferrol and Santiago, where few people use Galician for everyday communication.

29 « […] la pantalla de televisión es más pequeña y “disimula” los problemas de sincronía visual, mientras que el tamaño de la pantalla de cine hace que el ajuste sea más importante y tenga que recibir una atención especial. » (Agost 1999, 81)

« […] los dibujos, obviamente, no hablan, sino que son doblados en el estudio de grabación […] Por todo ello, nadie considera que en el caso de los dibujos animados se traicione la interpretación original. […] Por el hecho de tratarse de dibujos, todos los problemas de sincronismo labial desaparecen, y el traductor sólo ha de prestar atención a la isocronía, es decir, a la longitud de la frase, y ya en un segundo plano, a la abertura y cierre de la boca del personaje. » (ibid. 85-86)

30 For instance, Manuel, the clumsy Spanish waiter from Barcelona in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, was Italian in the Spanish version TVE broadcast in the 1980s and Mexican in the Catalan version that aired on TVC in 1986 (Agost 1999, 110).

31 « Mi opinión es que es difícil que este cambio de mentalidad tenga lugar en un futuro próximo. Es sintomático, a este respecto, que ni siquiera la enorme presión que se ejerce continuamente sobre las autoridades educativas españolas para mejorar la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras en nuestro país haya sido suficiente para alterar la situación. » (Zaro 2001, 53-54)

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Référence électronique

Carlos Menéndez-Otero, « Linguistic pluralism and dubbing in Spain », Mise au point [En ligne], 5 | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2013, consulté le 19 octobre 2017. URL : http://map.revues.org/1374 ; DOI : 10.4000/map.1374

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Carlos Menéndez-Otero

Research Assistant Professor at the University of Oviedo, Spain

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Les contenus de la revue Mise au point sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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