President of Arvato (Bertelsmann)
“The cultural industry is very important to Spain. It could become even more important, but it could equally disappear because Spain is the European country with the most digital piracy”
How important is the cultural industry to Spain?
Spain is one of the most important countries for Bertelsmann, along with Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. What’s more, apart from the economic relationships we have with our companies and businesses in Spain, which employ more than eight thousand people, there is also a strong affection and emotional bond. The cultural industry continues to be very important to Spain and could become more important still; but equally it could also come close to disappearing. This is because Spain is, unfortunately, the European country with the highest level of digital piracy. If the cultural industries are truly going to develop on the digital level—such as in the United States or other countries—then we run a serious risk of losing a substantial proportion of this industry, unless we make efforts to tackle digital piracy. Some 80 percent of Spaniards admit to having downloaded pirate contents. It is an issue that requires education and awareness raising. Without a doubt, people here do not understand or believe that they should have to pay for something that has a value.
Is it significant that an increasing proportion of this cultural industry is the property of foreign companies?
I don’t consider the industry to be mostly, or increasingly, in foreign hands. And even if this were the case, I wouldn’t see it as a bad thing, considering that the world today is much more globalized. Rights are ever more global, and for the world of the Spanish cultural industry, stronger relations with the rest of the globe are a good thing. This is, above all, true of the Spanish language, which is a great asset whose value must be recognized. Perhaps foreign and Spanish capital together can sell more worldwide than Spain can on its own.
Language is essential, but aren’t we focusing too much on Latin America?
Spain undoubtedly has a great advantage in its language. It is very focused on Latin America (which is a good thing), but it is missing a greater emphasis on Asia, for example. Asia concentrates the greatest number of inhabitants and the greatest proportion of the world’s GDP. And Spain does not have a strong presence in Asia, either in the cultural industry or in any other kind of business sector.
Is there a strong enough work ethic in Spain?
No, there isn’t. And we have to demand a work ethic of our young people. I tend to tell the young people with no education or experience that we have taken into our company that they will never get anywhere without hard work and effort. There has been a bit of a proliferation of the “big break” culture, the get-rich-quick scheme, money for nothing, getting on in life because of the contacts you have as opposed to the work you put in. I am a fan of getting somewhere based on merit.
What do people ask you about Spain when you go to Berlin?
What they are puzzled about–and they ask me about it again and again–is why there is a 50 percent youth unemployment rate. This is what worries them. As a German company with eight thousand workers in Spain, we try to create projects to further promote youth employment, whether by employing talent from the university, supporting vocational training both as an enterprise and as a foundation, or with the project “Tú eres tu futuro” [“You are Your Future”]. This is what most worries German company directors when they come to Spain.