Producing a documentary series about the day-to-day life of the Prime Minister is a particularly delicate idea. The proposal by Andrés Varela Entrecanales, shareholder of Prisa and owner of The Pool, co-producer of the documentary about Pedro Sánchez together with Secuoya, raises doubts about the reputational impact it could have on both the head of government and the parties involved in the project.
A few days ago, for example, this newspaper reported that Secuoya plummeted on the stock market, losing a quarter of its value since the announcement of its participation in the production which, in principle, will be titled Las cuatro estaciones (The Four Seasons). There are also many questions about the reputational effects that may arise for the media outlet or platform that decides to buy the production. Moncloa accepted the idea, convinced of the contribution to the image of the head of government, but is it a really fruitful communication action?
Political communication experts consulted by DIRCOMFIDENCIAL agree on the high risk involved in the product. The new president of the Association of Political Communication (ACOP), Óscar Álvarez, considers that “it is a risky decision”, because “in Spain there is no tradition of producing this type of political content and, secondly, because in the context of the high social and political polarisation we are experiencing, it will be used as a weapon to discredit political opponents”.
The political landscape in which the documentary is filmed is particularly relevant in the reputational analysis. Grayling’s Director of Public Affairs, Luis Tejero, believes that “at a time when politics arouses widespread distrust among citizens, it is logical that a documentary about the head of government is received with scepticism or even scorned as purely propagandistic material. Even more so, taking into account that its release is likely to coincide with a year full of elections and with Sánchez’s candidacy already printed on the ballot papers”.
Examples of documentaries on political leaders.
Tejero also underlines the idea that in Spain “we do not have a consolidated tradition of documentaries on leaders or election campaigns, unlike what happens outside our borders. The expert gives as an example the United States, with titles such as The War Room about Bill Clinton, Journeys with George about Bush Jr. or By the People, about Barack Obama; Brazil, with Entreatos about Lula da Silva or France with Les coulisses d’une victoire about Emmanuel Macron.
“The most recent attempt to humanise Spanish politicians on television,” she says, “are the interviews that Bertín Osborne does with them over a glass of wine and a good plate of food, in an exercise in infotainment that does not usually make great headlines.
Paloma Piqueiras, PhD in Communication and vice-president of ACOP, argues that, although “it is still difficult to assess the communicative and reputational impact it may have”, the big question is what will have more weight in the documentary, whether “the human image that is intended to convey of Pedro Sánchez or the message of the opposition, in which the government will foreseeably be accused of advertisement. That, I think, is the answer to whether this documentary can reinforce or erode the leader’s image”.
Bertín Osborne with former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Specialists in political communication agree that, in order to promote a good image of the leader, the documentary should include a more human side of the Prime Minister. Pedro Sánchez behind the scenes. The president of ACOP considers it appropriate that in the series “the viewer is part in first person of the backstage of politics without interference and with objectivity. Any attempt to sugarcoat or exaggerate its image will undoubtedly be negative.
Grayling’s Director of Public Affairs believes that “the documentary should aim to present Sánchez in a natural way, as a flesh and blood politician who has moments of doubt, weakness or fatigue. Beyond the figure we all know of a president who dominates the teleprompter, it is to be hoped that we will see a closer and less cold face of a politician who opens the doors of his residence to show us everyday scenes”.
Showing naturalness without falling into propaganda is key, according to experts.
What should the series not include if it is to convey an attractive image of the president? Tejero believes that “it is inevitable that this documentary, like any other political content, will be criticised, but the controversy will be less controversial to the extent that it manages to comply with the agreement and avoid any vocation of “propaganda or partisan or political publicity”, as reflected in the BOE. Any disproportionate praise will turn against the protagonist”.
The doctor from the Complutense University of Madrid points out that “the real attraction of these documentaries is to get to know what the cameras do not usually capture. From a communicative point of view, it would be much more interesting if they showed personal facets that contribute to improving the attributes that they want to highlight”. The key for Piqueiras is spontaneity.“If naturalness loses weight because the documentary is excessively scripted or the president seems impostured, failure is assured and easy criticism is guaranteed”, he concludes.
A format with dubious electoral value
Experts are wary of the possibility that the outcome of the documentary will influence the result at the polls. Tejero believes that “this documentary will hardly make Sánchez win or lose votes. If anything, it will serve to reinforce those who are already convinced and to feed the conversations of those who are very keen on politics on Twitter and in the media”.
On the other hand, Álvarez believes that “it can only reinforce its image among its voters and sympathisers, as long as it fulfils a fundamental premise, that it is a faithful and real translation of political and personal activity, objective and without interference”.
The series is directed by Curro Sánchez Varela and will initially consist of two 45-minute episodes, although it could be extended for another season.