Tuesday, July 10, 2007

RCTV comes back, sort of, while Globovision fights back to stay

This weekend the rumor of an eventual return of RCTV were confirmed: I saw it myself Saturday AM when on my Direct TV screen I saw the RCTV logo running in an endless loop, channel 103 for those interested. The papers confirmed that vision: Intercable will give the number 13 to RCTV, NetUno will give varied numbers as they change according the region. But Supercable has declined, with the confession that they do not want to "run into trouble" with the government.

Now, what does that mean exactly? Not much. Cable, even if Supercable were to be included, does not reach 25% of Venezuelan homes. Even adding Internet (by the way, those who can watch RCTV through Internet and YouTube certainly can afford cable), even adding those who steal the signal of some cable company, no more than 30% of Venezuelan homes have access to some form of cable TV, and mostly in upper income areas: poorer areas simply cannot afford a cable bill unless a few pool together and steal the signal with the complicity of the payer. One of the reasons by the way why you see many Direct TV satellite dishes in the barrios is that Direct TV signal cannot be stolen that easily. Besides, installing expensive and vulnerable ground line in popular district is a deterrent for other systems than Direct TV. The paradox is that the poor are forced to buy the more expensive satellite system if they want to escape Chavez blabber.

The result is that RCTV will go from a 100% national coverage to a 30% coverage AT BEST. With the consequent decrease in advertising revenue. The implications for RCTV is that it will be difficult to keep its large staff and producing capabilities and news coverage, at least as long as it does not manage to sell enough production overseas. Right now, outside the US and Colombia I do not see that many buyers for anything Venezuelan except soap operas.

Will chavismo settle for a diminished RCTV? Not sure. On the positive side for chavismo it effectively removed RCTV from the popular areas so that RCTV will not be able to offer the very needed counter information against the permanent Chavez propaganda. RCTV and Globovision together will not reach more than 50% of the country and thus 50% will have to rely on either sycophantic pro Chavez media (VTV, ViVe) or on mildly pro Chavez to neutral TV (the rest).

The real reason why the government might not accept that "compromise", even though it would go a long way to assuage some of the foreign concerns on that matter, is that the new RCTV will be called RCTV "internacional". Under the current rules, as an international cable channel AND as a network that does not emit on the air waves directly, RCTV would be exempt from following cadenas. That is, when ALL VENEZUELAN CHANNELS must go into simultaneous broadcast to transmit the silly Chavez tirades, RCTV can keep along, minding its own business, and passing the news that sometimes Chavez tries to hide through his cadenas (April 11, 2002 anyone?). That by itself could push many folks to make the financial sacrifice to get cable as they will be able to watch their soap operas without interruption. The only winners right now are the cable companies. That is, until Chavez decides to strike against them, in particular if RCTV manges a 30% rating again in spite of all the obstacles. I suspect that this will happen, not counting all the legal attacks that the government is certain to launch against RCTV to shut it up once and for all.

And what about Globovision? While we are discussing attacks on RCTV and the media, let's look at the letter that Globovision posted as full page ad in all major Venezuelan newspapers. I have taken picture even if is rather hard to read (click to enlarge). It is a big picture and I had to reduce it to try to make my page as easy a download as possible. You can read the full letter at the Globovision site, by clicking the little green arrow on the lower left corner.

What does the letter say? It is addressed by the CEO of Globovision to the Vice President Jorge Rodriguez. It was received at the vice presidency on June 29 and since on Saturday 8 of July there was no reply yet, Globovision decided to make a big deal of it and publish it.

In short: it openly calls Jorge Rodriguez a liar. This is no surprise of course, we have seen all the lies of Rodriguez when he was the head of the CNE. Of the regime figures he is with the interior minister Pedro Carreño the two characters that are least trusted in Venezuela, in particular within the opposition. Personally I would leave my wallet alone in a room with Chavez but I would not do so with these two creeps.

The main themes of the letter:
  • In the country there is a state policy to diminish and destroy the Venezuelan media.
  • Many international institutions are aware of the abuses made by the Chavez administration.
  • Globovision alone has reported and documented 59 physical aggressions, 174 verbal aggressions from government officials.
  • To date NO ACTION has been undertaken by the Venezuelan judicial system to address these offenses and protect the victims.
  • But in addition the government has undertaken judicial action against Globovision and those ones do see action in the courts, contrary to the ones presented by Globovision.
  • Against Globovision there are 19 court cases, 6 administrative actions and many "investigations".
  • The president and most of his personnel refuse any interview to Globovison whereas they give it to state media at will and to international media on occasion.
  • The government has been refusing to accept increased coverage of Globovision (UHF), going to the length to grant previously UHF range reserved for Globovision expansion to other media.
  • The human rights of Globovision and its workers have been under attack and defended by many important international organizations and the government, in violation of its international agreements, has refused to take action.
So there you go, the gauntlet is thrown. If Rodriguez does not respond he admits the arguments of the letter. If he replies he must attack further. but it will be very difficult for him to ignore for long such a full page ad where he is personally asked to justify his words.

What does this mean? Globovision knows that it will be closed sooner than later, that Chavez simply cannot allow independent information in Venezuela, at the moment which his regime is facing so much problems and at the moment when he wants to establish his rule for ever and ever. Chavez has no choice but to close Globovision (and "re"-close RCTV by the way). Globovison knows it and it is preparing itself to go down with its boots on.

-The end-

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