11Onze Check: ‘El País’ whitewashes Santander?
A few days ago, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the fine of 485,000 euros to Banco Santander for a serious breach of the Code of Best Practices. Even so, this fact was not newsworthy for the main Spanish newspaper, ‘El País’, which, instead of talking about it, has published positive news about the financial institution. We analyse it with the Bias Method.
A day after Banco Santander presented its results for the 2021 financial year, with profits of more than 8,000 million euros, the Supreme Court announced that the bank will have to pay 485,000 euros for not restructuring mortgages for people without resources. This was confirmed by the contentious chamber of the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal filed by the bank against the National High Court in a ruling on 11 January.
Specifically, the Bank of Spain imposed the aforementioned sanction for a serious breach of the Code of Best Practices (CBP) of the Royal Decree on urgent measures for the protection of mortgage debtors without resources. This fine was imposed on the institution following an inspection – carried out between 1 January and 31 December 2014 – to check that the mortgage debt restructuring measures were being applied, as provided for in article 5.4 of the Royal Decree.
Although the sanction is clearly symbolic, given the financial institution’s profits, it does show that the bank did not apply the measures in force to protect vulnerable families, a fact that is certainly of interest to the public. It is therefore surprising that the same week that several media outlets publish the news of the fine, ‘El País’ not only fails to publish it, but devotes a whole series of articles to praise Banco Santander.
Is it possible that the leading Spanish newspaper is compensating for the bad public image of one of its shareholders by trying to hide the bad news with praise? We have analysed with the Bias Method one of the first news items that the newspaper published after the ruling was confirmed, and we have come to the conclusion that the information is 50% biased.
The article limits itself to publishing the information supposedly provided by Banco Santander. The published figures are presented without the source of the information. Obviously, the reader can look for the information on his own, but the journalist should facilitate this task and provide the original sources.
There is no external evidence, nor any alternative voice to the official Santander version. This is an article in the format of promotional content, where the bank’s president sets the editorial line, the bank provides the data and the editor simply puts it in news format.
Although the news of the week for the public at large is the dismissal of a cassation appeal filed by Banco Santander, with the subsequent confirmation that it will have to pay a fine of 485,000 euros for malpractice, ‘El País’ does not echo it. On the other hand, it does publish a series of articles with headlines such as: “Santander earns 8,124 million in 2021, the highest profit in the last decade”, “Santander takes to the market and issues 1,350 million in debt”, “Botín breaks away from its rivals in the dividend war”… One might think that the newspaper is doing its best to ensure that the publication of a string of good news hides the bad news of the week.
It is no news that a large part of the newspaper’s advertising revenue comes from private banks, specifically Banco Santander, which is also a shareholder of Grupo Prisa, to which the newspaper belongs. There is, therefore, a possible conflict of interest that would explain why the newspaper seems to be part of a media campaign by Santander to give a positive image of the bank in view of the Supreme Court ruling confirming that it has abused its customers.
VOCATION OF SERVICE
It is quite evident that the article analysed and the rest of the articles published by this same media outlet do not serve the public interest, nor do they have as a priority the will to serve public opinion. On the contrary, they are entirely focused on whitening Santander’s image at a time of need. They, therefore, contravene the most basic rules of the journalists’ code of ethics. The aim is not to give the news, but to divert readers’ thoughts away from the facts, which are really newsworthy, that are damaging to Santander.
To know more about the Bias Method we have used to compare this information, you will find it here. If you would like to send us economic information to verify, you can do so by writing to [email protected].
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