Almost 2.3 million viewers watched The Anthill every day, on average, in May. The Antena 3 program is the most watched of all Spanish television and has a very loyal and stable audience that moves between 15% and 18% of screen share, unbeatable for years in its broadcast slot. Its success makes it the preferred place where everyone wants to go to talk about their book, their film, their album ... or to try to convince the citizen that he is the best option to govern the country. If compared with other entertainment spaces where there is room for current affairs, from different chains, schedules and ideological orientations, El programa de Ana Rosa (Telecinco) has not reached half a million viewers this week, El intermedio (La Sexta) is around 1.1 million followers and Todo es mentira (Cuatro) moves between 500,000 and 600,000 viewers.
On May 31, Pedro Sánchez stated in Congress: "We will see in prime time programs people who only represent themselves pontificate and insult without the right to reply. They are going to invent barbarities." Pablo Motos was taken for granted. The next day, in the current affairs talk show of his program, he took the floor: "He has made an allusion that seems to me to catch us close, either to us or to MasterChef [...]. As far as we are concerned, I renew the invitation to our President of the Government, who did not want to attend the last time in elections, and I will be happy to receive him and give him the whole hour to reply. " That same night, the director of communication of the PSOE, Ion Antolín, wrote a thread of messages on Twitter that started like this: "And the funny ants transformed into scorpions. How a family show ended in a magma of Trumpism in prime time."
And the funny ants transformed into scorpions. How a family show ended in a magma of Trumpism in prime time. The beard, Juan del Val, said that calling for July 23 was "electoral fraud." And so on every night. How scary. pic.twitter.com/0UcTaYbuzv
— Ion Antolín Llorente (@ionantolin) June 1, 2023
The thing came from behind. On Monday, May 29, El Hormiguero advanced the political gathering held every two Tuesdays with journalists Rubén Amón and María Dabán, writer Juan del Val and humorist Miguel Lago, to comment on the results of the regional and municipal elections. In it, Del Val described the electoral advance to July 23 as "a fraud": "We already know that it is legal, we already know that it obeys the legal deadlines, but it seems to me that it is trying to alter a result."
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In that same gathering, the comedian Miguel Lago denounced "two weeks of permanent accusation" and "four years of permanent insults, that whoever does not think like you is a macho, a disgusting, a facha". It was his response to Podemos' complaint against the program for its comments about Pilar Lima, Podem's candidate in Valencia. Lima filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's Office of Valencia for mocking his deafness and sexual orientation. On Monday 29, and on the same subject, Juan del Val contributed: "Fascism has been the campaign of Podemos and fascism is not bought. Even if you say you're something else, if you're a fascist people notice. [...] When you point to a journalist, a communicator... You're being a fascist."
From the left, Rubén Amón, María Dabán, Pablo Motos, Miguel Lago and Juan del Val, in the gathering of 'El hormiguero' on May 29. Carlos Lopez Alvarez
The presence of political themes in El hormiguero is not new. They are the main issue in the usual visits of Miguel Ángel Revilla, who has already sat at the table of Pablo Motos on 27 occasions. Mariano Rajoy, Felipe González, Pablo Iglesias, Albert Rivera, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, Abel Caballero, Santiago Abascal and Pedro Sánchez have passed through the same chair. The latter refused the invitation to attend the 2019 general election campaign, but he did attend in 2016 and on other occasions before becoming president of the Government. "Since the beginning of the program, politicians have come, both during the campaign and at any other time," says Carmen Ferreiro, director of Entertainment at Atresmedia. "It is the most watched program on television and everyone wants to go because it offers great visibility," continues Ferreiro, spokesman agreed between chain and program to answer questions from EL PAÍS.
For Isaac Hernández, a political consultant and expert in political communication, the objective that politicians seek by attending prime-time programs is "notoriety in niches of voters they did not have." On the other hand, according to this specialist, neither chain nor program gain anything by betting on political content in entertainment spaces. "With the amount of misinformation that exists and the politicization of communication, so that now we also put political issues in programs that were not predestined to it. People devote 5% of their day-to-day thinking to issues related to politics. If I like the program because it is a leisure and entertainment content and you also put political content there, I think people will gradually stop watching it, "argues the expert.
From the left, Cristina Pardo, Tamara Falcó, Pablo Motos, Nuria Roca and Juan del Val, while commenting on the news in 'El hormiguero' on the 1st.
In addition to occasional visits by politicians, since the pandemic began, the program reinforced the presence of current affairs through gatherings that, every Thursday and two Tuesdays a month, deal with political and social issues and in which they participate from comedians to Tamara Falcó, daughter of Isabel Preysler. This is how Carmen Ferreiro justifies it: "That a daily program of maximum audience did not take into account current issues would be like living in a bubble and, probably, people would not connect with it as they do with El hormiguero. [...] From the first moment, this novelty was well received by the public, as evidenced by the audiences, both television and its virality in social networks".
The expert in political communication does not think the same: "Television is the medium with the greatest authority, but if we also put these brawls in prime time programs, people will have an even greater detachment than 9now." Hernández recommends that politicians measure their presence in the media very well, and warns programs that, in his opinion, the politicization of entertainment spaces can be detrimental in terms of audience.
Pablo Motos and Santiago Abascal, in a moment of an interview in 'El hormiguero' in 2019.
On this occasion, the candidates will not be able to attend this coveted showcase during the electoral campaign, which begins on July 7, since, as confirmed from Atresmedia, El hormiguero plans to end its season on July 3 and thus begin its summer break at the same height as in previous years, without altering its plans for the electoral advance. On the other hand, El intermedio will be extended this year until after the July 23 elections. From the communication group they explain that, while the Motos program is a pure entertainment format, the one that leads El Gran Wyoming does have a political tinge that justifies that lengthening.
As for the reactions that have arisen from the political parties to the comments made in El hormiguero, Carmen Ferreiro believes that "if it were not one of the most successful programs in the history of television, probably the director of communication of the PSOE would not have made any comment. A program that has been the most watched on television for so many years is inevitable that it provokes reactions or that there are those who want to gain visibility at its expense. Anything that is said about The Anthill or that happens in The Anthill provokes endless news."
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