Friday, May 03, 2013

For foreign non-illustrated media and chavista supporters: chavismo media lock up

Since there is right now a cadena that silences a Capriles press conference that I was planning to live tweet, I decided that I might as well write the current situation of the media in Venezuela. Two reasons motivate me to do so.

The first one is that there are still idiotic (sorry, no other word applies) chavismo supporters overseas that repeat the old cliche that private media oppress the people and hide the news in Venezuela. Saddest part is that many journalists who should know better, who would never accept such a thing as a cadena at home, not only fail to report on the power abuse that cadenas are, but actually repeat the idiotic cliches over private control of media in Venezuela.

The other reason is that since so many people are working to denounce the current Venezuelan dictatorship, I thought I offer them a primer they can link too whenever convenient. So here it goes in clear, simple definitions.

CADENA: mandatory, SIMULTANEOUS, FORCED, broadcast on ALL AIR WAVES, TV and radio, of governmental messages. A cadena is called at will, often several times during the day as it happens since April 14, in particular. The cadena implies that who ever holds it can speak as long as s/he wants, that whatever commercial revenue lost by private broadcaster is not compensated. What is worse, cadenas are used to attack political adversaries, including direct insults and lies, while the aggravated parties have no right of reply, not only a simple one minute cadena, should we say, but not even a minute in the state broadcasting system news or talk shows.

PUBLIC/STATE TV MEDIA: chavismo over the years, has built an impressive array of media. The official state media is VTV which reaches ALL the country. To this you must add ViVeTV and Tves which reach almost as much as VTV, and which are supposed to be cultural and educational channels but which support, at least for ViVeTV, an extensive repeat of all political events shown on VTV. In a minor role because it does not reach as much of the country as the above, there is ANTV from the parliament, Telesur which pretends to be a chavista CÑN and local TV stations and community ones. Thus we have three national networks, 2 almost national ones and dozens of local stuff which pass for all practical purposes only state messages, state propaganda or edulcorated "entertainment" as politically correct as possible. It is to be noted that in some areas which are not reached by cable TV the only TV you can get in open air broadcast is state TV (VTV or Tves).

PUBLIC/STATE RADIO MEDIA: the regime disposes of RNV, the sate radio that reaches all the country, but also of the more "commercial" YVKE which is a network of associated radios that cover all the major population centers. The situation here is worse than TV because when you travel a lot as I do you will drive through areas where the only radio stations with news you may get in your car are from or aligned with the regime. The other ones only play music and, not all, quickie local news of the road-kill-of-the-day variety.

LEY DE RESPONSABILIDAD SOCIAL EN RADIO Y TV, with CONATEL: these are the regulatory laws and agencies that make sure private media toes the line. They are of a repressive nature, with governmental appointed supervisors, whose main objective is that embarrassing news for the regime are shown, if must be, late at night. Only private media is ever sanctioned even though state media commits abuses infinitely worse such as the VTV show "La Hojilla" everyday late night.  The objective here is simple: create financial hardship to media that does not tow the line, driving them to bankruptcy if necessary, or in the case of Globovision this week to a change in ownership.

PRIVATE TV AND RADIO: these have been reduced considerably since Chavez reached office in 1999 and after the strike of 2002. Today we can divide the private media news in two groups: the neutralized ones and the other.

Neutralized ones: Venevision which could actually be considered almost pro regime and Televen which carries a difficult balancing act because it feels sort of protected through the space it gives to Jose Vicente Rangel every Sunday morning. Some local TV which also carry a difficult balancing act, frequently threatened when the regime does not like an item. On the radio the only one with a partial national coverage has buckled down. In short, through these you get more news than on the state system but very little criticism or even analytic examination.
Free media: this is reduced today to Globovision, although its sale this week is expected to change its editorial line. But this network, which is the the one the most attacked by the regime, has a limited coverage. It is only allowed to be in open air broadcast in Valencia and Caracas, which together represent about 25% of the country. Elsewhere you can get Globovision only if you are on cable. Note: the cable system of the regime managed through CANTV does not offer Globovision even though by law it should offer it, at least last time I checked. Outside of Globovision you only have a very few independent radio stations that dare and can afford to do so because they are situated in large cities and have a local base of advertisers which allow them to survive. But nobody today can strike it rich through a "dissident" radio station as the regime has no qualms in putting pressure on advertisers.

THE PRESS: the situation there is hardly better as the regime controls the extent of freedom of expression through allowing the importation of paper and the official advertising which for many local newspaper is the only way to survive. Local papers that dare to print unpleasantness can see their income go down by half in a few days. Only major cities can support a critical newspaper that dares to expose abuses. To this we must add the general poor quality of local papers which at best reprint articles from the main ones. For example in Yaracuy where I live, I have stopped buying the local press years ago: you only read the red pages, local cat eat dogs incidents, social events and mostly pro regime news though some times the infighting in chavismo does appear. Non governmental news do appear but usually in short, not very well written notes.

JUDICIAL IMPOTENCE:  what is worse than anything written above is the impossibility to get justice. Several example.
Persecution of journalists: when critical press journalists are attacked and/or injured, it is already a miracle that they are not the ones going to jail as the aggressors   To work today a journalist needs to carry at hand helmets, gas mask, etc.... Even though the situation has become a little bit better, it is still a regular occurrence that pro regime hecklers do not balk at attacking journalists.  Self censorship ensues.
Fines and more: that media and journalists are fined is one thing, but their possibility to appeal, to get a fair trial, leads them invariably to international organizations.
Public lynching: there are radio and TV programs in the state system devoted to character assassination of opposition figures, but also of people in the media. "La Hojilla" is the best known one but you should listen to the attacks made in normal newscast of the public system, without ever the right to reply being offered while the aggravated parties simply have decided to ignore it all since there is no judicial recourse. The problem is that such media driven public lynching contributes to violent physical attacks by pro regime goons that feel validated in their attacks.

It should be clear that any objective observer of the Venezuelan situation should be aware and mention these things. If they fail to do so they can only be woefully misinformed and should shut up; or fascists themselves supporting these abuses for whatever reason they have.

I hope this helps and that you may use it around.


  1. What about El Nacional and El Universal printed versions? They were the main newspapers when I lived there in the late 70s. Nowadays I read their Internet pages. Don't these two provide plenty of voice for the opposition? Are these as relevant today as they were then? I assume printed readership is down, but...

    1. El Universal has some limited self censorship in that certain type of news are not reported. Still, waht is reproted is serious and as in depth as we can expect in this country.

      El Nacional is hysterical most of the times but still carries some of the best OpEd.

      The problem is that they are "reference papers" like NYT or WaPo and thus only reach an elite of sorts. El Pueblo prefers Ultimas Noticias which is written at simpler level.

      Whatever it is all papers suffer from the same syndrome: lack of follow up. After a few weeks even disastrous governmental blunders like Pudreval tend to be forgotten.

  2. Daniel, Can you comment on what happened to the Daily Journal? That was THE English language paper when I lived in Venezuela. I learned so much about world politics from reading that paper every day...

    1. The Daily Journal is long gone from newstands. It was bought by a pro chavez group, became quickly unreadable and was left to be distributed for free in hotels. Until it disappeared or something.

    2. The Daily Journal is long gone from newstands. It was bought by a pro chavez group, became quickly unreadable and was left to be distributed for free in hotels. Until it disappeared or something.

  3. Thank you Daniel, I tweeted it too (mojopo). You have been doing amazing work this year, my friend I have never met, and I spread the word on my FB. I am enjoying visitors from VE for a while, who have enlightened me further. You have a bit more room to expand on the dire situation there, eh? Perhaps the world is not aware of how you have washed and dried the reality the situation there, and I commend your bravery and humility.

  4. Michel Garcia8:26 AM

    Things to add:

    - Globovisión also bradcasts in Maracaibo (at least, last I knew).

    - By law, only RNV can broadcast nation-wide, the rest of radio stations can only transmit as far as their single-allowed antenna lets them, hence, the networks, which were re-regulated by the "Ley Resorte" and CONATEL, putting a limit to these networks on the number of stations within a network (if I remember correctly, the max is 7).

    - TVes transmits using RCTV's equipment, while RCTV doesn't get any compensation for the use of the seized equipment.

  5. Anonymous7:14 PM

    It should also be noted that even in slums and rural areas, it is not uncommon to see DirecTV dishes. This means that even poor people with limited incomes are willing to pay money to watch something other than state controlled channels, cadenas, telebasura from venevision, etc.

    1. Michel Garcia8:02 PM

      And not only that, you can actually see DirecTV dishes even on the shelters (like the "Sambil La Candelaria" mall that was turned into a shelter).

  6. Daniel, to add to the list-

    The new Digital Broadcast system - which at some point will replace analog - will NOT carry Globovision as per govt interpretations of regs. Since it is not today a 'national' broadcaster, then it cannot go digital since that is a national system. Eventually analog will disappear and . . . ?

    And: "ley de Resorte" also forces private media to air "Public Service Announcements" at all hours of the day which are simply government propaganda - with very high production values - showing gleaming hospitals and wonderful schools along with the slogan that "this is only possible in Revolution."

    What really shocks me is how the cadenas are aired to block information from the opposition - particularly when Capriles is calling for calm and to have patience with the legal methods at his disposal. The only reason you would want to block that message is because it goes counter to the official interpretation that Capriles is a blood-thirsty fascist.

    Speaking of media issues, I read in Zeta today that Insulza is considering Carter Center and Gustavo Cisneros (of Venevision) as possible interlocutors for dialogue. That sounds like a non-starter given the widespread sensation of having been sold out by the same people in 2004.

    Finally, how many Villega brothers are there in Venezuela doing journalism? Isn't it bizarre that the brother of the Minister of Information should be named co-director of news at Globovision? I'm not saying he is a govt plant. But still weird.

    I am a big fan of since they appear to be up and running 24/7. Their in-house video production is getting pretty good and they have decent "radio" interviews. Also, very happy with which carries El Nuevo Pais daily and Zeta weekly by subscription. (I beleive this is a fairly new service) Both are edited by Rafael Poleo who is working from Florida because he had the gall to opine on TV that Chavez would end up like Mussolini. He was mostly right.

  7. Nebelwald1:18 AM

    Excellent summary of the state of the media in the country. In Maracay I also stopped buying local press ages ago, at first because of dismal quality, and later compounded by all(Siglo, Aragueno, & Periodiquito) of them going pro-gov. Much prefer Caracas or Valencia papers. I corroborate the same when travelling in the countryside, most radio is either progov or religious. PDVSA has a radio station that also reaches far and wide ... no better than RNV. When turning on the radio in Maracay you will most probably hit either a progov station or a religiously oriented station.

    One thing you left out are the so-called estaciones de radio comunitarias, dozens and dozens of them have been given licenses to operate, curiously all are pro gov, and quite frequently they transmit close to frequencies occupied by independent stations, making reception difficult. A disguised way of good old fashioned jamming.

  8. Charly3:54 AM

    And yet, all of this media advantage is for naught, those poor lads are doooooooomed:

  9. Milonga6:45 AM

    You have to watch this Peruvian congresswoman calling Maduro all sorts of names and saying there have to be a new election in Venezuela, that Unasul cannot vouch this orangutan. I love her! Sorry folks, it's in Spanish.


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