The president of RTVE, José Manuel Pérez Tornero, defended this Monday in Congress that all the activities of his private companies carried out during the stage in which he was linked to the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) have been ethical, legal and compatible with its function. “I have complied with the law 100%,” he has stated bluntly during his appearance before the Mixed Control Commission, where he has proclaimed that he has never mixed “private and public interests.”
Pérez Tornero has answered the questions formulated by Vox, PP and Podemos about private businesses in the stage in which he held academic and managerial positions at the university. Faced with the expectation that the RTVE president himself had fueled last week by submitting his explanations to the parliamentary meeting, the data offered this Monday did not go beyond being generalities. Nor did the deputies and senators make an effort to delve into the details.
The two main opposition groups have shown disinterest and tepidity when trying to clarify the details of the possible violation of Pérez Tornero’s incompatibility law. Vox has attributed the information on alleged irregularities to “blackmail” and a “reckoning” of Podemos and CC OO. The PP has limited itself to questioning the delay in giving explanations and to claiming Pérez Tornero for exemplary behavior and then asking him to continue working and “show every day that he is worthy of the trust” granted by the Courts.
Podemos has been the only group that has been critical. His spokesman, Pablo Echenique, recalled that Pérez Tornero occupies one of the most important positions in the State, and wanted to know if the company Mizar Multimedia, in which the current president of the state entity appeared as administrator and attorney-in-fact, was active between 2000 and 2019 ; if he collaborated with the UAB in projects in which he participated or directed while he was a full-time professor; and if said company obtained economic benefit from such collaborations. He has also asked Pérez Tornero if he considers his activity as a position in a public university compatible with his private jobs and with continuing to lead RTVE.
The head of the corporation has stressed that everything he has done in his academic and professional career has complied with the law and has been ethical. And he has emphasized that no company in which he has a stake has billed “not even half a euro” to the UAB. “The University has never subcontracted for anything to a company owned by me, and it has never participated in any project financed by the European Union in which a company owned by me has participated, either directly or indirectly.”
During his speech, he showed the contract of a University project with the EU to maintain that those who participated in it “have affirmed that there has been no mediation by the UAB”. One of the works financed by the European Commission was entrusted to the Office of Communication and Education of the Autonomous of Barcelona. Mizar Multimedia collaborated in the study paid for with funds from the European Commission. The press releases of the Autonomous University of Barcelona included the collaboration of Mizar, Pérez Tornero’s company, in these works. Likewise, he was commissioned to edit with his company another work on television language and values, also financed by the European Union.
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Pérez Tornero served as director of the Communication and Education Cabinet at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and, at the same time, created two companies (Mizar and Gamma Media) to offer their services to both companies and institutions. Through these companies, it invoiced close to 12 million euros between 2000 and 2017, according to the Mercantile Registry. This income corresponded to work with private or public clients obtained through the university or other contacts.
Among those who have endorsed Pérez Tornero’s work this Monday is the former deputy Ignasi Guardans, who was director general of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts in the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Guardans has assured that Mizar joined the contract financed by the EU altruistically, as a company invited to collaborate as did some others. Guardans, who participated in the project, describes as “false” that part of the award was subcontracted with the aforementioned company. In this specific project, “Mizar never ‘subcontracted’ or charged anything at all,” said Guardans when asked by this newspaper.
Guardans has specified that, in the public tenders of projects in which the European Union participates, the applicants for the award detail the partners that will participate in the project and, therefore, will have access to financing. But it is also usually included the name of companies or people whose experience or knowledge enhances the quality of the project and who are willing to collaborate without remuneration. “It is false”, he points out, “to affirm that Mizar was a collection instrument for European contracts. Mizar signed a letter of support, as did several entities that could help the credibility of the offer and show that the bidders knew what they were talking about ”. And he adds that “Mizar is mentioned in the proposal to the European Commission in the same group as several relevant associations on film or education issues. But none of them charged anything: they gave support in the dissemination of that work, that they needed it, in their contact networks or websites ”.
The UAB press office, when announcing this EU-funded project, stated: “Other institutions will also play an important role in the development of the study: the French association Les Enfants de Cinéma and the Mizar Multimedia group, a company specializing in the development of of educational and cultural communication materials ”. In his defense, the president of RTVE stressed that the investigation directors do not decide with whom to contract. “All purchases made at the UAB are centrally registered and we do not intervene at all. I have always complied with the law. My behavior should not be understood with a profit motive ”. And he recalled: “The university accepts the start-ups and entrepreneurship [sic] and in that sense I founded the company in its day. I assure you that it is ethical, legal and compatible with my role ”.
Other issues that fueled the controversy in the parliamentary committee is the recent appointment of two high-ranking RTVE officials linked to Pérez Tornero and who, according to Ciudadanos, were a “tailored suit” for two former collaborators. The president of the corporation has stressed that he has had “neither art nor part” in the selection process, that merits were valued and that he acted with absolute objectivity in the public contest attended by Luis Pastor to occupy the Subdirectorate of Studies and Transparency of Knowledge, and Mireia Pi, for the Sub-Directorate of the Projects Area.