You've got to know when to hold'em and when to fold'em

Juan Cristóbal says: In the last few months, the government has ratcheted up the pressure against the only opposition TV station left in Venezuela, the small all-news outlet Globovisión. Chavismo is going all out, charging the company and its executives with everything from tax evasion to psychological war to environmental crimes (on account of a few head of stuffed moose hanging in the walls of the station’s owner), not to mention a relentless propaganda campaign on state media against the station.

It’s not hard to piece together that the outcome of this whole charade is Globovisión’s shut down, and soon. Today we even learned that the Supreme Tribunal decided, against the Constitution, that the government could impose prior restraint (a.k.a. censorship) whenever it wants to.

So in light of all this, it’s fair to ask: is it all worth it?

When you think about it, something doesn’t fit. The government has all the power to shut Globovisión down. It has had it for a long time. And yet, they’re still broadcasting. Why?

Inside sources suggest elements in the government are open to some sort of cohabitation arrangement. Chávez’s furious tone in ordering, on national TV, a harder line against the station hints at his frustration: his orders aren’t getting followed, because they’re meeting resistance from some of the less suicidal elements in the administration.

People like Diosdado and Jesse Chacón know full well that shutting down Venezuela’s last independent station could carry tremendous political costs. The benefits, on the other hand, are obviously limited. Globovisión’s audience is tiny, overwhelmingly urban, largely cable-or-satellite-TV subscribing, resolutely middle class, and rabidly antichavista to begin with. So it’s not like the station costs Chávez any swing votes as it is: Chuo Torrealba’s heroic efforts notwithstanding, Globovisión no sube cerro.

In light of this, maybe Globovisión editor Alberto Ravell can save some of the jobs his station provides and keep an important source of independent information for Venezuelans alive if he gave a few of his most shrill anchors the boot.

Perhaps he should give himself the boot.

Envision this scenario: Alberto Ravell comes out and says that their editorial line is wrong and that they are going to tone it down. He says he is resigning to make way for a more impartial editorial voice, that he is laying off some of the shrillest voices (Adiós, Ciudadano?) in the channel and that he is hiring more unbiased reporters and anchors. Imagine a new editor coming in and saying that, for the sake of balance, they will hire (gulp!) a chavista anchor.

The Maria Alejandra Lopezes of the world would, of course, go apoplectic. But the government may end up backing down. Sure, some of the radicals will continue to huff and puff, but is it entirely out of the realm of possibility to imagine them saying something like “well, we’ll continue to monitor them and see if they live up to their promise of balance” ?

I believe that, in terms of costs and benefits, it’s better to have a moderate outlet where to voice our ideas than to have none at all. And let’s face it, it’s not like the shrill tone is convincing anyone out there that isn’t already convinced. Hell, it may even be good for their ratings.

I’m no media insider, so I don’t even know if compromise is at all possible. I have been paying attention, though, and I haven’t heard anyone on either side seriously exploring this possibility.

I know I’m not the right person to be writing this post. I haven’t watched Globovisión for some time now, and I’ve never been a big fan. But I recognize the importance of Globovisión’s right to exist.

I don’t watch Venevisión, a channel that chose to water itself down for the sake of survival. I’m not suggesting Globovisión become Venevisión or, God forbid, the government-propaganda sewer that is VTV.

But if there is room for compromise, it should be explored. Venezuela is better off with some independent media than without it, even if said media is a milder, blander version of Globovisión.