What Newsprint-geddon hath wrougth: The hegemony's newsprint monopoly

Bobinas_Ceam-600x399On October 1st, Caracas newspaper Tal Cual announced in an editorial that the paper would run out of newsprint before the end of this month. As the deadline was supposed to end this week, both its workers and what’s left of the media not controlled by the hegemony demanded the central government provide a solution.

Last weekend, it happened: The Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex (CEAM) provided Tal Cual with enough newsprint… for just one month.

The problem wasn’t fixed, just postponed a little bit. And that’s the issue.

Thanks to the ongoing lack of currency to import newsprint (Newsprint-geddon), the hegemony found out a new way to put pressure on the papers that are neither part of the State Media System (SIBCI) or HegemonCorp., by putting in place a defacto monopoly in the acquisition and distribution of newsprint for all Venezuelan newspapers.

The Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex was created last year to print the state’s newspapers and other government-related material. But this year its mission has changed, as this special report from El Nacional tells us.

Until 2012, papers were having no trouble buying newsprint through private companies. But after newsprint was withdrawn from the import priority list, CADIVI reduced the amount of currency available to import it, and demanded more paperwork. Then, CEAM entered the picture and started working with smaller local papers to supply them. With time it has become the only real source for newsprint.

This has left the largest papers in serious peril, and make things easier for HegemonCorp. which has bought two of them (Ultimas Noticias and El Universal). The holdouts are left to starve.

The newsprint crisis has also broken unity in the press sector: At least 84 local papers formed their own association (Venezuelan Chamber of Newspapers) and work with CEAM, weakening the long-established Venezuelan Press Block (BPV). For the regional press, they don’t have much of a choice: advertising from the national, regional and local governments are usually their main source of income. So, it’s another case of “don’t spit the hand that feeds you”.

Keeping it short: The CEAM monopoly is just the recipe from the Lusinchi playbook, and taking it even further.