This Monday, the Círculo Ecuestre held a new installment of the cycle of talks: Opinion Leaders with Albert Sáez, director of El Periódico.  

After the welcome of the event, by the president of the Círculo Ecuestre, Enrique Lacalle, and the presentation, by Anna Gener, CEO Barcelona at Savills Spain and member of the club's Governing Board, the journalist began a dialogue with the lawyer and also journalist Ricardo Fernández Deu. 

The conversation began by covering the topic of the day: the result of the elections in Catalonia held this Sunday, May 12. The director of El Periódico reviewed the electoral panorama, pointing out various oddities such as “the clear distance between the first and second parties in number of seats and votes”, “the independence parties that have not added 68 deputies”, “the first time that the Socialist Party has won a Catalan election in votes and seats” or that “the Popular Party is the fourth political force in the Parliament, followed by Vox with 11 deputies”. Faced with this situation, he called for “waiting to see how either a government majority or an investiture majority is achieved”.

Asked about a possible end to the process, Sáez explained that “everything will depend on how the second round is resolved”: “if Illa ends up being President of the Generalitat, the process will turn the page. Otherwise we will return to the loop of independence, which right now has eaten up its own protagonists”. To conclude, he predicted that “Illa will be president of Catalonia”.

After the political analysis, Fernández Deu refocused the interview on journalistic matters. Thus, asked about the role of the media in public opinion, Albert Sáez explained that "for decades, the media have thought that we had the ability to direct public opinion, but our job is to shape it". “A newspaper is a community of people who discuss what is happening. The idea of the media as monologues is outdated”, he added. The journalist also appreciated that "despite moments of crisis in which there is a temptation to agree with readers, a medium that wants to be mainstream has to give many nuances to its positions". “That's what we try to do at El Periódico”, he said.

Regarding the future of journalism, the director of the newspaper was “optimistic” saying that “There is a generation of journalists that comes out of the trenches, who goes to the streets every day, who talks to people and who is unlikely to get feedback”. “In prensa ibérica we are 1,300 journalists dispersed throughout the territory constantly in contact with the people, learning about the concerns of society”, he said.

Given the dizzying growth of the media, the journalist demanded greater “responsibility for what is published on the platforms”: “It is essential to combat Mark Zuckerberg's idea that networks have no responsibility for what they publish. When a person makes a platform available to others to publish, they have to be responsible for what is said there. The right to freedom of expression adjoins many other rights”, he said. Continuing along this line, Albert Sáez asked for “transparency in the algorithm”: “When I go to the pharmacy and buy a medication, they give me the composition. On the other hand, when we put a piece of news on Google, we don't know why it worked yesterday and not tomorrow”. “Mr. Google has a blast with us”, he added. “Citizens who consume information through search engines and networks have the right to know how that information is distributed”, he added.

As an example, he shared with the audience of the Círculo Ecuestre a situation that occurred in these last elections: “The anti-fascist parties have placed advertising in the media through Google Ads, thus weakening the media with editorial responsibility and favoring the populists in social networks". “No one is responsible for what goes viral on TikTok”, he said.

Asked about the distribution of institutional advertising among the different media, Albert Sáez expressed having a “very clear position”: “At El Periódico we consider that institutions have the obligation to carry out institutional advertising, but that cannot alter the media market. It has to be distributed equitably based on each one's audience, not based on the editorial affinity with the media”. “It is absurd to say that public institutions cannot announce what they say, but it has to go hand in hand with transparency”, he concluded.