Propaganda and self-censorship in Venezuelan media
The media will play an important role in the lead-up to Venezuela's April 14 election, and the specific reach and polarization of TV channels contributes to uneven political terrain, writes WOLA.
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Self-censorship, the Ley Resorte’s ultimate effect in the post-RCTV era has had chilling results and is an undeniable element in many Venezuelan media outlets. Unlike censorship, which is usually evident, self-censorship is difficult to trace. In my research on Venezuelan telenovelas, I have been able to witness and document the increasing presence of self-censorship (Acosta-Alzuru, C. in press. “Melodrama, reality and crisis: The government-media relationship in Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution.” International Journal of Cultural Studies). In many cases, self-censorship was more restrictive than the Ley Resorte itself. Self-censorship has become one of the two main survival strategies for the remaining television networks in Venezuela. The other one is strict obedience. In my research I have not seen a shred of resistance when these outlets receive an “exhortation” from the government to pull a show or ban a voice from being aired.Skip to next paragraph
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These networks argue that as entertainment producers they should stay away from the political fray. Government opponents call their behavior opportunistic and underscore television’s responsibility to inform. In Venevisión’s case, the contrast between 2003-2004, when it broadcast Cosita Rica (a telenovela that mirrored the rocky path to the presidential recall referendum and whose antagonist was a metaphor of President Chávez) and the network’s current strict self-censorship says volumes about the evolution of the media situation in Venezuela in the last decade.
In sum, to understand television’s landscape and how it contributes to the uneven political terrain in Venezuela, it is necessary to analyze more than ownership patterns. Content (presences and absences), shares, the use of mandatory cadenas by the government, and the presence of voluntary cadenas in major outlets are essential to understand the inextricable links between Venezuela’s political and media situations.
With state television in propaganda mode and the most important private television outlets in survival mode, what will be the future of Venezuela’s access to a plurality of voices in the media?
- Carolina Acosta-Alzuru @caa2410 is Associate Professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Venezuela es una Telenovela (Alfa 2007).
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