Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Censorship in Venezuela: now the opposition is forbidden from showing the government actions

One year after taken RCTV from the air waves, the chavista censors have found a way to silence Globovison. Or at least dull considerably their ability to expose the misdeeds of the government: from now on any second lifted from the open broadcast transmission of VTV will be charged at the exorbitant rate of 56 USD. That is, every 30 second that is used by Globovision (and others, cable or open air signal, it does not matter as Globovision is the real target) will cost 1674 USD. And this payable every time it is retransmitted. The memorandum sent by VTV director, ineffable Yuri Pimentel, is worthy of detailed scrutiny as it reveals the clear censorship intentions of the government through VTV.

The first paragraph is a masterpiece of arrogance.

[the state TV, the 24/24 pro chavez propaganda channel at tax payer expense] in defense of its property and its most important asset, which is the the signal that they emit daily to 90% of the national territory; considering that it witness daily the indiscriminate use of its broadcast, through retransmission, by private broadcaster for commercial aims and other, has decided to establish the following payment schedule.

So here we are, the state TV who serves only Chavez, who rarely if ever allows any opposition view inside, will also charge for its broadcast. This would sound pretty reasonable IF THERE WERE another open air broadcast, paid by tax payer, that has 90% coverage of the country and where the political opposition would have, said, at least 40% of air time. IT DOES NOT. The TV stations that air opposition point of views are only private and are limited to regional transmission or to cable. That is the case of RCTV who covered 90% of the country and who now is limited to the 28% homes share of the cable. That is the case of Globovision who fares somewhat better as it also operates with an open signal Caracas and Valencia which roughly gives it a 40% national reach. That is the case of any local TV who individually reach at the very most a 10-15% of the population of Venezuela.

Some of you would said still at this point, "so what?". Let me first point out that a self styled socialist government suddenly considers as private property what belongs to ALL Venezuelans. Indeed, the vary same slogan of VTV is "el canal de todos los Venezolanos" stressing on the 'todos', the networks of ALL Venezuelans. As thus any Venezuelan should be able to use its transmissions since we all pay for them with our taxes, INCLUDING private media broadcasters. But let's move beyond this primal contradiction of the sick mind of Pimentel and those who ordered him to do that (I do not think that he is intelligent enough to come up with this strategy, though he is vicious enough).

If you still find nothing really wrong with that, which by now should mean that you are either a Chavez supporter or simply do not follow regularly how the news are broadcast INSIDE Venezuela, let me explain to you who the real target of this measure is.

RCTV was closed one year ago in what was perhaps the greatest political error of chavismo, even including the FARC recognition. Yet, in spite of this, RCTV through cable managed to gain the highest morning ratings with the talk show La Entrevista, which uses a lot of VTV footage to examine and criticize governmental actions. In the afternoon, in spite of all sorts of attempt, Alo Ciudadano reigns over the ratings from 5 to 8 PM at Globovision, not to mention Grado 33 from 8 to 8:30 PM. Neither VTV nor the neutralized Venevision and Televen have been able to do anything about this as even chavistas watch these spaces.

And why folks watch these spaces? Because VTV only offers propaganda, because the other private networks offer nothing and because through snippets taken from VTV Globovision and RCTV expose the mediocrity and failures and contradictions of the chavista regime. That is why there is a surprisingly large number of chavista who watch these networks, because they get the arguments they need for the internal chavista discussions.

But some of you might still not be impressed. After all you could say that Globovision should send its own camera folks to cover what they need and thus create their very own footage. Good, excellent point of course. Except for one thing: Globovision or RCTV are not allowed in most official functions or press conferences of government officials and thus MUST USE the VTV signal as it is most of the time the only source available for the declaration of such and such minister or chavista politician. When was the last time that Chavez gave a real press conference to ALL Venezuelan media? How often have you seen on TV ministers making important declarations ONLY in front of the microphones of RNV or VTV, and in a discrete hallway at that, as a perfect set up to make sure no embarrassing question shall rise?

By forcing Globovision to pay for ANYTHING taken from VTV in fact the government exerts almost direct censorship: the ability of Globovision to transmit information will be considerably limited, serious criticism of governmental measures at Globovision will be blocked as it cannot show the actual facts and thus risks lacking credibility by only "speaking" about things and not "showing" things, a crucial element in this media era. And the case for other services is even worse: Globovision could still afford the occasional snippet when it is really, really important, but local providers and RCTV simply cannot afford the fees of VTV as too much of their meager advertisement income would be swallowed (RCTV had to reduce its staff by 50% and one year after is still fighting to avoid outright bankruptcy). For all practical purposes, if this measures goes into effect, the access to information of the Venezuelan people will be severely damaged as all official information will have to come through the rosy filter of VTV. And let's not forget one additional benefit for VTV: since much less of its stuff can be now shown, since its editorial abuses will be less prone to scrutiny, we can easily imagine that creeps like Mario Silva at La Hojilla will feel even freer to slander opposition figures without these ones having the recourse to defend themselves at the remaining free channels.

Censorship, as simple as that.

Note: as an added insult to injury, VTV states that all all emissions featuring Chavez and official events will be free of charge, and only if these are shown during news hours. HOWEVER, if any editing is done they will be charged. The memo does not precise if simply shortening of a given speech is considered editing.... Since the words of Chavez are sacred, we can expect that even removal or portions will be considered editing.

And of course no word as to VTV paying Globovison or RCTV for all the transmissions that they get from them to show at slander shows such as La Hojilla.

And even less if private networks will be compensated from the loss of revenue from awful cadenas as the one last night.

-The end-

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