The first preserved report is cultural: the Moiseyev Ballet, on tour in Spain. The images are passing in black and white. Dance steps, Carmen Sarmiento speaking to the camera from the stalls, interviewing the dancers... The scene that we see today on a computer screen gave birth, on March 31, 1973, to the Weekly Report. Next to the video, a warning reads: "Technical status: image in poor condition, apparently cut off due to the end of recording." Nothing like watching the longest running program on national television with the eyes of a documentarian.
The magic phrase in the User Service Unit of the TVE Documentary Fund is: "There must be a weekly report on [insert topic here]". It is not for less. "The relationship between his team and those of us who work with the archive have always been one of symbiosis: Informe asks for a lot of documentation, but later its images are reused ad nauseam." He knows well what Luis López Polinio is talking about, head of the team that supplies archive images to the Information Services of the Entity and documentalist of the house since 1986.
Weekly Report turns half a century this Friday, and is consolidated as the longest running program on national television in Spain, but also in Europe. Worldwide it is only surpassed by 60 Minutes, from the American chain CBS, which was the inspiration for Pedro Erquicia when he was commissioned to create an informative magazine for Saturday nights. In fact, the 50th anniversary special that will be broadcast this Saturday will last exactly 60 minutes as a tribute.
It was an unprecedented format in Spain, its creators were very brave and daring, they won many battles against censorship
"It was an unprecedented format in Spain, its creators were very brave and daring, they won many battles against censorship," recalls José Carlos Gallardo, current director of the space, and returns to Carmen Sarmiento: "He talked about abortion, divorce, topics that could not be discussed. He recorded a report on adultery in 1976 that could not be broadcast until 1978". Those seven editors and two initial filmmakers called themselves children of the spirit of '68; they wanted to change the world, or at least try to. "They did it, and in this country they set the agenda," confirms Gallardo.
Until shortly before López Polinio's professional career began, everything was saved in film format. There are still some boxes of those reels scattered around the shelves. Not everything, he points out, there was no such awareness of posterity that has turned the rooms of the RTVE archive into a sort of time capsule of undeniable beauty. "The newscast was considered a broadcast product, an eliminated product," he says, "the raw material was kept in the cinema, but the broadcasts were on video, a very expensive medium, so the tapes were reused. They did not begin to be kept until 1985" .
Also in that, Weekly Report was an exception, "a privileged program" for a documentary filmmaker. "From the beginning it had a great impact and a close relationship with the archive," he recalls, "if you ask for images from the day the Watergate scandal broke out, for example, you won't find the news, but you will find the complete Saturday program. Blessed Weekly Report, It's been the backbone of so many searches." Also, he adds, it was the first material to be digitized.
From the beginning he had a close relationship with the archive. Our magic phrase is: 'There has to be a 'Weekly Report' on this.'
Going through the classic RTVE archive with a veteran has something magical. They call it El Voltio among themselves, they suppose that because in the past he was in an area of electrical contacts, but the truth is that no one knows it very well. It is a huge room divided into two floors covered with shelves. Corridors and corridors of tapes that contain the visual memory of History. Luis wriggles as if it were his house, shows cards, tapes, reviews a lifetime of order, numbers and letters: "I will always remember some. 3X507 was the code for the ETA attacks."
At the entrance, with the columns of covers in perspective, the reporter Carmen González records a short introduction for the Saturday program. "Weekly Report is a very special and much-loved format, you realize when you call: everyone gets on the phone," says the journalist, "and the working method is very particular: the team is always made up of a cameraman , a writer and a director who work together on the script. Always hand in hand, it couldn't be done any other way."
It is a very special and much-loved format, you realize when you call any personality: everyone picks up the phone
In the last three months, Luis López Polinio has gone through these rows of videos frequently, an anniversary obliges. "The most striking thing has been discovering how modern some of the topics they dealt with in the beginning were, it was avant-garde journalism, absolutely", he admits... with nostalgia? "I think that in documentation, any time in the past was worse," the older woman denies, but concedes: "Sometimes a certain calm and a certain care are missed. Now immediacy, speed, reflection or spending time prevail to find more elaborate material. For those of us who have caught up with a certain age, it leaves us a little with our tongues hanging out".
Almost 40 years documenting, organizing and diving into the huge RTVE archive must leave a mark.
-Luis, you will be champion of Trivial at least.
-[Laughs] Oh, in the past yes! Now they ask things about Piqué's troubles... and I'm already lost.
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