Sunday, May 20, 2007

The RCTV closing in Venezuela: fair questions to ask

With all these political tourists visiting Venezuela during these RCTV closing days, including European parliamentarians from the Spanish PP to mercenaries like Ignacio Ramonet, I was tempted to write an open letter. But instead I decided to write a short and simple list of the questions that should be relevant to any one approaching the complex RCTV problem with a somewhat objective spirit. (1 and 2). Without further ado the question and what could be a possible answer, or at least mine.

Is the quality of RCTV programming bad enough that it deserves to be closed? Yes, but! If we were to apply this criteria, then all Venezuelan networks should be closed, starting with the governmental VTV which has arguably the very worst programming of Venezuela.

Is RCTV an independent network? Define “independent”. RCTV has clearly a political line in its newscast reports. It exposes mercilessly the failings of the government and opens its air waves to people complaining about public services insufficiencies. In this regard RCTV is FULLY INDEPENDENT FROM THE GOVERNMETN LINE. But it has an editorial line and it is thus not quite independent from its owners ideas. Thus this is not an argument to justify its closing as the government TV has even less independence than the private networks in Venezuela.

Is it not desirable to remove RCTV from private interests? Define “private” interests. VTV, ViVe, ANTV and Telesur are in fact in the hands of private interests: they all obey to Chavez wishes, they modify their editorial line according to the political changes at the top. That Chavez has been elected with a majority of suffrages is an irrelevant point as those who did not vote for him and yet foot the bill for these networks are not represented in the programming or the news of the state networks. In other words, the private interests of Chavez are even more dominant in his networks than those of the RCTV owners. The Murdoch of the world would be so lucky to have the media power of Chavez. The partiality of the state public funded networks has been underlined by all sorts of international observers at election time, when it is most damaging to the proper functioning of the democratic state.

Should RCTV be closed because it participated illegally in political activities against Chavez? No, because this should have been proven through a court of law and nothing of substance against RCTV is making its way in the tribunals since Chavez is in office. If such a proceeding existed, and if the evidence were good enough to warrant a sentence against RCTV and its owners, that would not warrant its closure, it would warrant a penal decision that could go from forcing the owners of RCTV to sell to other media groups, to jail terms to the owners and the employees who collaborated in illegal political activities. Under no legal and just circumstances can RCTV concession be revoked or not renewed unless a due process is established by the judicial system.

Is RCTV a source of conspiracies against Chavez? Not any more than the other media. In 2002 Chavez defined RCTV, Venevision, Televen and Globovision as the 4 horsemen of the apocalypses. Thus in his mind the 4 networks were equally pernicious and should be equally punished for their participation in political events of 2002 and 2003 where it is difficult to define which of them was the worst one. Yet, only RCTV is punished. It would be good for the government to explain this contradiction. If the amends of Venevision or Televen were enough, why not make a deal with RCTV in order to allow at least one pro Chavez talk show? On the other hand the vulgar political actions of VTV and other state media are equally reprehensible as to whatever happened with private media in 2002-2003.

Hasn’t RCTV been violating the RESORTE law? As pointed in a previous question RCTV is yet to be subjected to a major investigation and all evidence point in fact as RCTV having followed the RESORTE law better than the very own governmental media who allow Chavez to break not only the RESORTE law in his broadcasted speeches but other laws such as the LOPNA or the armed forces laws. Yet, these state networks are under no judicial procedure.

But would it be desirable to have a network that does not run stupid games and silly serials based on sexual innuendoes and violence? Yes, of course, but why has not the government already shown the example with either VTV or ViVe? If chavismo had shown a real desire to promote a more cultural and educational programming it would not have started by limiting the reach of Vale TV, the only Venezuelan network that has no newscast, no advertisement, only documentaries.

But VTV is to defend politically the government attacked by international media conspiracy, so the government needs an extra VHF band range to put a cultural and educational channel. What is wrong in expropriating private interests for the common good? Define “common good”. Have the people been asked about why RCTV has the highest ratings? Are you qualified to decide who watches what? Will the proposed Teves be truly independent? The answer to that last reply question already exists: Teves will be run at the sufferance of Chavez who will name its board at will. No viewers committee or studies are offered as to the constitution of Teves. In other words, Teves will be a privately owned network, whose sole owner is Chavez.

Users's manual

Ask these questions around and compare to the answers I present here. All my answers can be documented fully by simple search engines in the web, or by sting a few hours in front to the different TV channels of Venezuela. Demand that those who disagree on my replies justify their own ones with accurate and searchable information not coming from the Venezuelan government.

But would a luxury of details on these answers solve anything? No, because the decision to close RCTV is a strictly political decision taken by Chavez under the influence of Castrism which understands the need to control fully the information accessed by the people. If you doubt that examine the media situation in Cuba and observe how the Venezuelan government has been applying an increasingly sytrong policy which in the long run will result in a media and communication similar to what exists in Cuba or China. That is, maybe more than one provider but with internal strong censorship to filter any news particularly damaging to the regime and the ideas it supports at a given moment.

This is the key of the RCTV closing. Without understanding that, you will not be able to understand anything else of the problem and you will be drowned by official propaganda.

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1) Of course calling Ramonet a mercenary could seem to be less than objective. But when one just saw Ramonet applaud at Chavez peroration the other night where he said unspeakable things, what other adjective would be appropriate for Ramonet?

2) I have already written a post on the real reasons on the RCTV closing. This one is part summary of that post.
-The end-

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