Josep Tatxo Benet, of Mediapro and Fox: “Because of Covid I was only concentrating on breathing”

Josep Tatxo Benet, of Mediapro and Fox: “Because of Covid I was only concentrating on breathing”

This man who gestures and shakes red ribbons from his wrists is a survivor. While entering intensive care for Covid the day more people died in Spain, he concentrated on breathing. And then the journalist and businessman Josep María Benet Ferrán, known in Catalonia as “Tatxo” wrote the whole process in a book, “The most difficult journey”.

–Your book is not published in Spanish.

–No. Only in Catalan.

–And why only in Catalan?

–Simply because I wrote it in Catalan. And then the publisher published it in Catalan and nobody has translated it into Spanish.

— You were hospitalized for Covid when there were no vaccines yet. And if you wrote a book with your story, I suspect that story left a strong mark. Is it so?

Well, I didn’t think so. What happened is that I contracted the disease at the beginning of everything, at the very beginning, at the beginning of March 2020. The news at that time said that old people were dying. At the hospital I was in the Intensive Care Unit. I came out very emaciated and I was bad. A journalist friend found out and interviewed me for a newspaper. He recorded it. He put it on the networks with great impact, because until then there was no story. It was the first time that someone explained what was happening without being a doctor, but as a patient. And then everything acquired a certain notoriety. Until a Catalan poet told me: “Hey, why don’t you write the story?” I told him no. “At least record, so as not to forget you”, he told me. Since after leaving the hospital I had to lock myself up at home, in a room, I listened to him. Later yes, on the transcripts of what I had narrated, I dedicated myself to writing. The book has a more journalistic part, because I am a journalist. At the beginning I am explaining how we were finding out with droppers what was happening with respect to Covid. And then it has a very personal part that is my story told in the first person.

–Is it a traumatic memory?

–Well I do not know. As I say in the same book, I am a person who lives a lot in the present and therefore the past has very little importance for me. I dedicate myself to continue doing my job with as much intensity as before. Of course, the reflections of 2020 were about life, about death, about how this will be and whether or not I will suffer. I thought that I could die. I thought it was the closest I had ever come in my life to dying. At one point they told my wife: “Well, look, we’ve already given her everything we have, we’ve tossed a coin and she’ll come up heads or tails.” A few weeks later I interviewed one of the doctors and asked him if he thought she was going to die on me. She replied: “And yes, of course. You were plummeting and there was no way to stop you. At a certain point you stopped. Don’t ask me how.” I suppose that the person who has been in an accident must have the same feeling and then realizes that everything next to him has been destroyed and that his part of the car has remained miraculously safe, because if he gets to be 20 centimeters more the right would have died. Well that’s the feeling.

–There were no vaccines. What indication did they give you?

–Breathe in a certain way. I had some hooks on that gave me air into my nose. The air was very hot. She told me: “You have to concentrate on your breathing.” I did it. I concentrated on inhaling even though it felt like it was burning inside my lungs. It was the only thing that mattered to me in this life at that moment. And then I cared only about the next breath. Hours and hours passed like this, at a time when not only was there no vaccine, but you didn’t even know if there would be. The doctors also did not know what medicine to give. I kept the medical reports, which show how they were testing to see if something worked. The goal was not to be Milan, with the coffins in the streets. Then I established that the time I was admitted was the one with the most admissions to hospitals. The day I went to intensive care was the day the most people died from Covid.

–Did swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar help you?

–Yeah. One stroke after the other. The longest trajectory I have done is 44 kilometers. When you are swimming for 14 hours you know that you are swimming and perhaps you are not aware that you are advancing, but you are advancing. Stroke, stroke, stroke. The only thing that matters to you is the quality of the stroke. The ten thousandth stroke should be just as good as the first. No matter how tired you are, you must maintain the style. You must hold your breath.

–Then came journalistic writing.

–I am 65 and I have been a journalist since I was 15. As a good journalist, it was not systematic at all, because writing is a very individual job. As long as you deliver on time and don’t bother anyone… Systematization is given to you more by the business world, when there are many people who depend on you.

Q: Did your experience on regional television in Catalonia come after?

–The main objective was the development of the Catalan language. Catalonia had suffered a lot in the time of Francisco Franco, of very harsh repression, after 200 or 300 years of suffering. I have never been able to study Catalan. What I know is because at home they spoke to me in Catalan and I answered them in Catalan, that outside the home it was forbidden.

–And you wrote the Covid book in Catalan.

–As a self-taught. In 1983, when TV3 came out, the Catalan government thought that mass communication, television, had to be a very important tool for normalizing Catalan in Catalonia. At that time there were only two television channels in Spain, Spanish national television. No competition. with vices And suddenly a chain of young people came out, very young. I was 26 years old and I was not one of the youngest. We wanted to make a different, modern, fresh television. And the truth is that we achieved it and it had a very big impact, not only in Catalonia, but throughout the Spanish audiovisual spectrum. People couldn’t see it outside of Catalonia, but they heard about TV3 and heard great praise. And in Catalonia I think, a huge impact for two things. One, because it was well done and people were interested in what it did. And secondly, because after so many years of 40 years of dictatorship, without being able to hear Catalan, for a television channel to suddenly address you in your language was important from a sentimental point of view. Before they could fine you. Or stop even if you spoke Catalan at home and they found out. The publication of books in Catalan was very restricted until well beyond the 1960s. Later, when it was agreed that books in Catalan could be published in a slightly more massive way, it was done with a lot of censorship. The people experienced TV3 as a triumph.

–What is your position in the international debate on networks and false news?

–False news, poorly prepared, without rigor, without verification… It is a perversion, because journalism that continues to do its job in a normal way loses, paradoxically, credibility. It is not easy to fight. We must try to know and know how to teach the public that elaborate, rigorous, serious journalism that tells the truth and investigates is one thing, and another thing is the noise that social networks feed non-stop.

— Was football also perverted?

–No, I think that football is one of the things that has changed the least. The rules are being tweaked. We have made it grow technologically. In other words, people now watch the matches at a technological image level from home, which is light years away from what was seen recently. Therefore, there are already two different products. One, soccer built at home mostly with great technological development and that offers people a very rewarding experience. It’s not like before when you saw yourself as a tiny player in black and white. Now you see him sweat, you participate. The other product is attendance at the stadium, also a very rewarding experience. Every time the clubs have stadiums that are better prepared, more comfortable, they have more and more accessory things, in addition to the vision of the stadium itself, which also leads to a negative effect, in quotes. Ticket prices have gone up because the experience is greater, but then people don’t want or are unable to go to the stadium. You can watch it on TV because now all the games are on TV. The clubs are working very well on this double plane. I was at the World Cup final in Doha and the World Cup experience, apart from the game itself, which was wonderful, was very rewarding. In general, the experience is different because going to the stadium means many hours. Instead, you’re at home having dinner and suddenly the game starts at nine. You sit in front of the TV until 11 and watch it before going to sleep.

Are you going to the stadium?

–They went more when I could go with my children. Then they stopped going with me, because they went with their friends, and then I stopped going often. Now I’m a little more lazy. It’s called gandul in Catalan. And here?

–It can be “lazy”.


–Your other side is that of a collector of prohibited paintings. Banned by whom?

–We are very into this, we are very agnostic and anything that has been censored by any type of censorship is a forbidden book for us. There are ideologies that censor more than others, but all ideologies censor what is not canonical for those who have power. The one who censors is the one who has power. It can be a state power, it can be a private power, whatever power it is. It can be a pressure group or it can be an association. It may be that you are allegedly defending your rights. And in my collection there are censored works of any kind. Something that at some point has not been able to be exhibited. Perhaps by coercion, it is the State, or it is a private group. There are painters who have received pressure from feminist groups and the MoMA in New York canceled their exhibition. And it is not that I protect, for example, any harasser or suspected of being one. I’m just posting one. A work of art in front of the vision of the people so that people separate the private life of the artist from the work they see. Then everyone can interpret it as they want. Perhaps one work would horrify him and another would not. And to another it will seem something different. I have some 160 works and I hope that in September we can open the museum once and for all to install it in Barcelona.

–What launched you into the world of forbidden works?

–The coincidence. I have been collecting art for many years and in May there is an art fair called ARCO. So always, every year I go to see what’s new. In 2018 I couldn’t go. I traveled to Paris. I saw a photographic report about one of the works that was there. It was called “Political prisoners in contemporary Spain”. Since I couldn’t go see it, I bought it. It was by a well-known Spanish artist, Santiago Sierra. So I called a gallery owner friend of mine and told him to buy it for me. Hours later, they censored it. They ordered me to remove it from the Madrid Trade Fair. In addition, the curious thing about the case is that some time after the operation he became very famous. There was a lot of controversy. Some time later, one day I was in Formentera and a man came to me and said: “Hey, I’m the one who censored ARCO’s work.” He was the president of IFEMA at that time. IFEMA is the Fair Institute of Madrid, which is where the fair is held. As a result of this I began to look at works of art censored by the world and I began to be interested. And now I’m 260. And it was a challenge. They told me I was a provocateur.

–Mediapro’s investors are Chinese. What is the daily relationship with them?

–Good, of course. They ask us to do our job, to dedicate ourselves to growing the company and that is what we are doing. What they ask is that the company benefits and grows. This is also what I want.

Is there a geopolitical directive?

–No. This is a private investor who was interested in participating in the company.

Q: Does the political conflict between China and the United States affect you?

–No, no, there is no pressure. The gentleman has a private fund, it is not the Chinese government.

–Why the investment in Argentina?

–Because it is an absolutely natural fact. Mediapro has been here for 25 years. It arose, by decision of the competition regulations, as in Mexico and Brazil, which forced Disney to divest, an opportunity that we took advantage of with Fox. Mediapro is basically a service company. Here in Argentina we do not address the final consumer but for example for Conmebol or Universal. On the other hand, now with Fox we will have direct contact with the consumer, our viewer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.