Sunday, May 22, 2005

Venezuela to Launch Continent-Wide TV Network

Below is our critique of "El Jazeera", an article published on Alternet on Venezuela's new continent-wide TV network:

Though this article introduces a hopeful new South American initiative many in the US may not yet know about, it did not accurately represent the state of Venezuelan government funded media, and was unfairly critical of state-run media in favor of privately operated media.

In regards to this article’s quote from Jorge Ramos: "Chávez already controls almost everything in Venezuela, the assembly, the constitution, the Supreme Court and the army." One thing he doesn’t control is the media. Most radio, TV and newspapers are in the hands of a fierce opposition which emit a constant stream of criticism and often slander of the leftist government.

Before applying the statement: "All media financed by states are susceptible to pressure and government orientations if regulations are not established that guarantee editorial autonomy," to Venezuela, the author could’ve looked more closely at the way government funded media in Venezuela has been run so far. In response to an opposition-run media monopoly, the Chavez government has helped fund many community-run radio and TV stations. I’ve visited many of these radio stations in Venezuela, all of which received funding from the government. All broadcasters admitted they were ardently independent from the government, in spite of their funding. Many described their situation as a direct contrast to the media control in Cuba, some stating they enjoyed total freedom in a country where they knew the president would welcome any valid criticisms. In fact, the Sunday morning slot the author mentioned with Chavez on Venezolana de Television called “Alo Presidente,” is extremely popular. During the show he fields dozens of questions and criticisms from people calling in from all over the country.

For more on Gov’t funded, community-run media in Venezuela see these articles:
Radio Rebelde, Voice of the Voiceless, Community-run TV in Ven.

Also, the author writes: “ . . .who knows -- 30 years down the line Telesur may just be under attack by its government benefactors for being too critical, like another public broadcasting venture we're all familiar with.”

As the author alludes, in the United States, Fox News is arguably more “state-sponsored” than PBS. I find it strange that the author seems to be more wary of state-run media than private media, which is just as easily co-opted by those in power. In fact, perhaps private media is even more easily co-opted, since private news corporations are entirely for-profit ventures.

If media is not “co-opted” by “the state,” then who is it co-opted by? After years of CIA sponsored media in Latin America, such as Radio Swan in Cuba, perhaps the Latin American state deserves to be allowed its own voice. Besides, isn’t the idea to have diversity of opinion in the media? The more diverse opinions are publicly expressed, the more citizens have an opportunity to make up their own minds. In the case of Venezuela, a balance of opinion is sorely needed. Arguably, no source of information is completely objective, every author and editor has a point of view. If Telesur can provide Latin America with a source of information independent from capitalist driven and U.S. influenced media, then more power to it!