Bullfighting charges back to Spanish public TV

Bullfights returned to Spanish public television on Wednesday after a six-year suspension, sparking warnings of legal action from animal rights activists.

State-financed broadcaster RTVE screened live a bullfight in north-central Valladolid featuring star matadors "El Juli" Julian Lopez Escobar, Jose Maria Manzanares and Alejandro Talavante.

Its main channel TVE had stopped showing the fights in 2006, blaming the high price of broadcasting rights, a dwindling audience, and the fact that they usually take place during children's viewing hours.

RTVE's manual had previously said that bullfights were violent acts that should not be shown when children are watching television.

But a new RTVE board, appointed after a conservative Popular Party government took power last December, changed the rules, removing bullfights from the category of "violence against animals".

Bullfighting fans held up signs in the stands that read "Yes to bulls on TVE and to youth at bullfights" and "Thank you TVE. Yes to bullfighting".

"It was a very special bullfight," Talavante told reporters after the bullfight.

"When I started to like bullfighting it was thanks to my grandfather who recently passed away and also for the broadcasts on Spanish public television."

Animal rights political group PACMA vowed to challenge the renewed broadcasts.

"For PACMA, bullfights are a spectacle in which spectators see the agony and death of a bleeding animal, real animal abuse. This content can in no way be proper to show in children's time."

The group said its lawyers would complain to the state secretary for telecommunications on Thursday, alleging that RTVE is breaching a self-regulatory code on television content for children.

RTVE said it had decided to show the fight after all involved, including the bull ranch and matadors, agreed to waive broadcasting fees.

It would be the first of a "brief but symbolic" series of top class bullfighting festivals shown on public television, it said.

"This is a great day for bullfighting," said "El Juli" who was carried out of the bullring on his assistants' shoulders in honour of his good performance in the bullring.

"Television reaches every house in Spain. The future lies in bringing bullfighting to young people and the entire world. You can do a lot with television," he added.

Bullfighting has been on the decline for years in Spain, with a 2010 survey in leading daily El Pais showing 60 percent of respondents opposed the practice.

Barcelona's ring held its final bullfight in September last year after the Catalonia region banned bullfighting, the second Spanish region to do so after the Canary Islands.

An advisory board for RTVE in Catalonia reportedly urged this week that the regional station disconnect from national programming during the bullfight so as to protect children.

RTVE's chief Leopoldo Gonzalez-Echenique, nominated in June, was a top official in the previous Popular Party government of Jose Maria Aznar.

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