I am back in San Felipe after a few days in Caracas, when we learned the end of Globovision. And thus I had to face my first evening without Leopoldo Castillo, a.k.a. El Ciudadano. It is not that I was a slave of that show, never watching it when I am away from home, but in San Felipe it was part of my routine, the essential routine considering that I got ideas for many a post by listening to the discussions of the talk show.
No, I was not sitting in front of the set for 3 hours, I had it like one has the radio on while doing something else, only actually watching when something really interesting happened. Also, with DirectTV recording box, I often started watching after 6 the show starting at 5, zapping though all that had little or not interest for me.
But in the past decade, and the more so once Cesar Miguel Rondon was booted out of Televen, El Ciudadano was the only talk show worth watching in Venezuelan TV. Never condescending, strongly opinionated but with proof in hand, it was the crude exposition of all of the regime's miserableness. You loved it or hated it, but El Ciudadano was the star of political TV.
Now Globovision is in its agony throes. After the departure of Castillo, the truly serious journalists left have decided to go also. They did not leave at first last May, trusting that they would still be able to do some significant work under the new ownership of Globovision. The ones that left at first were the entertainers (Buenas Noches, Yo Prometo....). But the near simultaneous departure of Chuo Torrelaba and Leopoldo Castillo last week have opened the flood gates. The journalists left are the ones covering the beat, the ones too afraid of going jobless, etc... The editorialists, the ones that were able to put the news in context, the only way you can understand certain type of news in this most secretive and falsely open country, will be all gone soon because in Globovision they will not be allowed to put context.
I think that the sudden and precipitous demise of Globovision comes paradoxically from the return of chavista voices to its sets. Until the change of owners Globovision talk show anchors were tired of showing the invitations sent to ministers and directors of the regime that were declined or simply ignored. Once Globovision changed hands some started to come back to a network that was not a complacent one like the state propaganda vehicle, VTV, is. There you had the feel that the journalists cleared up all questions before asking them, assuming you could call those "questions" as they were mere excuses for starting long diatribes by the public "servant" on the set.
After a decade of boycotting free and open media the few chavista that started showing up on Globovision demonstrated that they had lost any skill at replying to questions, at accounting for their actions or their ideas. This was seen best in Grado 33, the 8PM half hour in depth research show which started to have for the first time a few chavista voices. The format was to postulate a given item and have 2 to 5 people answer a series of questions on that theme. When Grado 33 managed to have its first chavistas in the group it became dramatically clear that these people had long ago given up on thought processes, on questioning ideas, on being coherent. It was clear that after working all these years for the regime, they had become used to follow meekly directives, regardless on how nonsensical those may have been.
I suppose that it did not take long for the new owners, really figureheads for the true political operators behind the purchase, to realize that a more neutral Globovision was actually WORSE than a partial one. The order to kill came earlier than expected.
Tonight, I have decided to erase #110 on my "favorites" Direct TV box. There is nothing to watch anymore there. It does not matter what Vladimir Villegas tries to convince us with, and he does have a valid point with the double speech that many have used against Globovision troubles, the problem is that the way Globovision new owners have proceeded has killed the credibility of that network. When the best TV journalists prefer to go jobless than hold their job, you know they do that to preserve their personal credibility. Venezuelan TV? Move along! Nothing to watch there!
Ironically the main victim of Globovion neutering is going to be the chavista lumpen who is denied access to any state network. Only Globovision would show their complaint, that insecurity was killing them, that promises were unfulfilled, that they had no jobs, no lights, no water. And yet, pledging to vote for Chavez. Now they can start working on their inner contradiction and turn protest violent if they want anyone to pay attention. Paradoxically the venting off at Globovision waves may have helped chavismo more than what it thinks. But this one has been rendered too idiotic to notice. Now we'll see.
PS: as for the future of Globovision. When a highly specific audience channel is dismissed the audience is lost. The ones that were watching state TV will remain doing so, not seeing why they should switch, just like a previous regime attempt though Canal-i failed dismally. And the ones who were devoted can only but be disappointed in the new format, and angry. Globovision was also advertising for the upper social strata which are going to be the ones deserting the fastest and the most. Advertisers are going to go elsewhere. In other words, Globovision is going to go into irrelevance and a money losing scheme for the new owners. Then again income was not the reason for the purchase.
There have been sustained rumors that Globovision was bought by a chavista faction (Diosdado?) to prepare itself for future battles when it breaks with Maduro who as president gets to keep the state media. Whatever was true in this urban legend, the panicky way the new owners chose to sped up the demise as the national situation worsens for chavismo, excludes such a future scenario. The future of Venezuelan information is Internet and its people's journalism; and back to newspaper until the regime kills all of that too. A matter of time.