Friday, May 18, 2007

A visual image of the future of Venezuelan information

As the closing date of RCTV approaches, I was trying to figure out a way to convey what it would mean as to the quality of information that will reach us as of May 28. In the best of circumstances, with the poor rating numbers available, and considering the forced cadenas which force Chavez message on all (tonight we are getting yet another one of those hours long mandatory simultaneous broadcast on all TV channels), I finally came up with a reasonable graphic way: the pie chart.

For this I considered the following: 1) the potential public range, that is, national or local, 2) the amount of time dedicated to information, 3) the availability on open air signal or cable only. Thus to the open air signal nation wide (RCTV, VTV, Venevision and Televen) I gave 50 points. The other ones would be getting less. For example Globovision is on cable but does not cover the whole country with open air signal so it gets 40. But local stations. I only considered large markets which added up to only 10 to 20 points. And so on. I did not include the ratings as the pro opposition case woudl be even more striking as RCTV holds between 35 and 50% of ratings according to the "novela" on the air, I tried to consider potential market

Thus we get this first graph where the different colors mean the following: red, networks that only show pro Chavez info, yellow, networks that tend to show the crude reality of the country and thus would be called by chavistas as yellow journalism, in pink the networks that have been effectively neutered by chavismo and thus show mild pro Chavez news with an occasional criticism. And in light green the networks that have no news anyway.

Clearly the balance is in favor of Chavez. Even though I consider that I tried to favor as much as possible the share of opposition air time the most the end result is pretty much what the perception of a casual observer in some Caracas hotel room would be.

If Chavez effectively seizes RCTV then the least we can expect is a less obvious pro Chavez message than the other pro Chavez networks, and thus the change to a in between orange to red color (we are told that the new network to come, TeVes, might not even have a newscast, but the choice of programing will be telling). However, the pressure of the small local TV that still sort of air some anti Chavez complains from "el pueblo" would become intolerable and some of them would shift to an either no news format or prepare to be taken over at some point, thus the green yellow that I put them.

Form this graphic you get clearly two things: the sources of non governmental news will be restricted to Globovision and the reach of that one will not be enough to maintain the country adequately informed. In fact, if you are known as someone watching Globovision that would brand you in the barrios and people wanting to watch Globvision might have to watch it at low volume, behind closed doors, a little bit as Western occupied Europe listened to the BBC hiding from Nazi ears.

No matter what, Chavez will get an overwhelming communicational advantage and through cadenas and forced advertisement (10 minutes daily already) he woudl minimize somewhat any effect of Globovision. It will be clearly the end of freedom of information in Venezuela.

The question of course would become, as of May 28, how long until Globovision succumbs?

(hat tip: someone on Alo Ciudadano who held a lousily made graphic of a pie chart on the topic so I could not resit but make a better one, more complete).

-The end-

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