"The Airwaves Belong to the People"
Venezuela's Top Media Regulator Opens Dialogue with Journalists from Around the World
By Alex Contreras Baspineiro
Narco News South American Bureau Chief
April 16, 2004
Caracas, Venezuela, April 15, 2004: As we struggle through this age of globalization, the so-called community, alternative, popular or authentic media are becoming stronger and challenging the influence of the commercial media.
“The Media and Democracy,” a panel discussion held as part of the Second World Gathering in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, in Caracas, brought together journalists from around the world. This reporter, Narco News, and Authentic Journalism, were there.
Blanca Eeckout, director of the new television station Vive Tv (as well as a graduate and professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism), said that movements for a new form of communication and the democratization of information are developing all around the American continent, and around the world. She compared this to the increasing collaboration between different local social movements.
Mass communication has become the engine of liberating change, and can no longer be considered as the mere merchandise of the commercial media’s Iraq war coverage.
Eeckout’s Vive Tv is making a long-hidden image visible again – the image of “Venezuela viva,” the living Venezuela of the masses ignored by the commercial media. Someday, the process beginning here in Caracas may generate media across the content, media that show the true América Latina viva.
For the moment, the Venezuelan people and the occasional visitors here don’t need to watch – or, more likely, tune out – the commercial television stations. For 16 hours each day, Vive Tv offers an alternative for cultural, educational and public-interest programming.
Brazilian journalist Beto Almeida emphasized the necessity of “building sister media outlets” to confront the onslaught of commercial media in Venezuela and throughout the continent.
President Hugo Chavez and his administration’s support for creating new frequencies for broadcast media have brought great hope. Almeida proposes that it is time to launch a new Community television station in the rural, southern, region, where Venezuelan community media has not yet been established.
A New Kind of Communication
At present, there are 85 ongoing projects in community media in this country, said Jesse Chacón, Venezuelan minister of communications and information. The government, he said, is supporting these, and has the equipment to supply 100 more community radio and 28 more community television stations.
“Today in Venezuela, 98 percent of the broadcast media are controlled by the private sector, leaving just two percent in the hands of the public,” said Chacón. “But new community-controlled media are beginning to emerge.”
After the popular uprising that defeated 2002’s coup d’état, the government took back the main public television station, Venezolana de Televisón or VTV, and invested $56 million US dollars to make it into one of the most technologically advanced stations in Latin America. This work should be completed sometime in the middle of next year.
Venezuela’s public radio network, Radio Nacional, is another priority for the government. With 24-hour programming, Radio Nacional is broadcast in 32 cities, covering 90 percent of the country, also broadcasting 8 hours per day on international frequencies.
Rejecting the Commercial Media tyranny imposed on Venezuela by most of the Commercial Media, Cachon said that the public must be directly involved in regulating the airwaves.
It is remarkable to see and feel the interest among the Venezuelan public for a new kind of communication, after all the damage the commercial media have done.
A participant at the event, your humble South American Bureau Chief spoke about the next step for Authentic Journalism. As this reporter presented information on the next session of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, from July 30 to August 8 in Cochabamba and the coca-growing region of Chapare, Bolivia, one could perceive a great deal of interest from the audience. Many listening made a note of the web page and where to apply for a scholarship.
Argentinean journalist Stella Calloni spoke about the general conflict within the media, and how this relates to the US imposing its will throughout the hemisphere. She said that we are in the middle of a media war, and suggested that the rest of the continent follow Venezuela’s example by building alternative communications networks, forming news agency collectives, and forging new resistance media.
As they shared their experiences in electronic publishing, Spanish journalist Pascual Serran of Rebelión and Venezuelan journalist Gonzalo Gómez of Aporrea agreed on the internet’s importance. While online communication still faces many obstacles, so far its achievements have been greater than its failures.
These online publications, like our own, carry out an enormous task despite many limitations. They are not just companions to but also part of the social movements.
According to Gómez, there must be an interaction between the popular media and the popular movement. This, he said, should be the beginning of a new, international coordination that globalizes resistance.
A new country, said Serrano, and another form of communication, are possible….
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
Narco News is funded by your contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.
Please make journalism like this possible by going to The Fund's web site
and making a contribution today.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism
For more Narco News, click here.