Getting our priorities straight

20

maduro_villegas_sibciIf you’re Venezuelan (and live here), a good night’s sleep is a rare occurrence.

The other night, because I had just read Ewald Scharfenberg’s piece on how much the government allocated to official media in 2015, a few of my waking madrugada minutes were spent flipping through the Sibci TV channels.

As I cycled through the stations, the figure he mentioned – 3,600,000,000 bolivars – kept ringing in my ears. Should a China-borrowing, tax-increasing, oil-price-dipping, inflation-driven economy be spending hand over fist on this?

Take TV FANB –the TV channel that premiered on February 4th as a much needed space for the Armed Forces to propagandize ([/sarcasm])– was showing a long winded debate about the role accorded to women in the military justice system during the revolution years. Over on ANTV –the National Assembly’s TV Network– Minister Aloha Núñez was praising Chávez’s role in vindicating indigenous peoples.

When the clock had struck twelve a few minutes earlier on VTV, the National Anthem was played in Chávez’s tenorish, somewhat off-key voice. It was pieced together with a montage of recent Venezuelan history, and timed to match negative lyrics like “el vil egoísmo que otra vez triunfó” with images of opposition hasbeens Carlos Ortega and Pedro Carmona Estanga.

And that’s just a glimpse. Content like this plays through a robust array of channels, websites and radio stations 24/7. It’s been playing for a very long time.

The aforementioned number is no guesstimate. Media scholar Marcelino Bisbal compiled it by adding individual allocations for media in the 2015 budget. Mind you, the real figure is larger. Many expenses, such as TV FANB, are not included, much less any additional funding they might add to the tab like they did last year.

Although this amount of money may not seem like much for a government that misplaced $25 bn and burns $12 bn a year in gasoline subsidies, Ewald warns that “the 3.6 billion bolivars slated for investment in the media surpasses the money allocated to the judicial and electoral branches of government”. El Nacional calculated it could build 301 new schools throughout the country with that kind of dough..

That figure could also mean 60 thousand people get a year’s worth of the revised minimum wage.

In fact, more money goes to official media than to the Universidad Central de Venezuela, for example, whose 2015 budget allocation was barely 39% of what they asked for.

Money-talk aside, there’s a discussion on principles to be had here. A government that wants to hike taxes and gas prices should first look to cutting corners in an openly biased media system that frequently tramples on the Constitution, the Electoral Processes Act and the Anticorruption Act.

Anabella previously warned us that people’s priorities aren’t reflected in next year’s budget, and this figure reaffirms her point with a bang.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I dunno, I think if I had to list 99 reasons to object to SiBCI, “the money spent” probably wouldn’t make the list. At the parallel rate, Bs.3.6 billion is less than $30 million. For the whole of SiBCI! That’s *nothing*! That’s probably the best value-for-money the government gets out of all the crazy hare-brained things it does to shore up popularity!

    I was tellin’ Roberto: chamo, the overpricing on a *single* one of the combined cycle gas turbine deals Derwick was selling to Bariven was almost twice that much! Think about it, with the dollars the bolichicos made selling turbines they could buy enough black market bolivars to pay for SiBCI *twice* over!! Or, the gov’t could triple spending of SiBCI just by foregoing one Derwick deal!

    SiBCI is a bargain!

    I guess we’ll just disagree on this. There’s so much to hate about SiBCI. But the cost? Really?

    • Disagreement agreed, Quico. It is in fact a drop in the lake, money-wise, but when I remember part of everyone’s salary goes to funding this SiBCI, along with those 99 objections that make up your list, well… I can’t help but raise a flag.

    • I don’t think the problem is the amount of money they are getting. The problem is the judicial system is getting less and that is one of our main issues right now, we are under a heavy judicial crisis and they allocate more money to TV stations. Priorities are completely screwed

  2. Paying for propaganda to keep people cheated is a lot cheaper than investing money in actually solving the country’s problems.

    That leaves a lot more to steal.

  3. Agree with Francisco that the issue is not really how much money the regime spends on expanding its media reach because considering the size of its resources the amount of its expenditures in this area is not particularly relevant .

    What is really relevant is that the impact that such ‘investments’ in buying media have on influencing Venezuelan public opinion and in what segments . Many many years ago lord Beaverbrook in England wanted to convince British public opinion of his views and to do that bought a great many papers to voice his opinions. Sometime later he realized that even if people bought his papers they were not adopting his opinions , so all the expenditure in buying those papers was a waste of money!!

    How much do these media investments influence venezuelan public opinion , do people really pay attention or even watch these broadcasts ?? My guess is that their level of penetration in the public mind is minimal , they collect more yawns than interest . So whaever the effort and money spent on these projects they are a waste of time.

    People who feel that the govt is ruining the quality of their live from direct daily experience are not going to pay any attention to the messages in this new regime media , on the contrary they will be more incensed ats its deceits and lies , and those who want to believe whatever the regime tells them for emotional reasons arent going to raise their conviction because of what these messsages tell them . So either way their persuasive effect is probably to meangles that they are an absolute waste or resources and time .

    Reminds me of parvenu gentlemen long time ago who had never recieve an education but who was fullsome in proclaming himself the proud owner of a Noble Price Winners Library Collection , books he would never read but who found faux sattisfaction in feeling himself cultured because of the books he owned.

    • Any penny mismanaged by the government (any government) should cause an uproar. Let it be Bs3.6 billion or $20 billion. A thief is a thief regardless of how much money he steals.

      During last presidential elections about half the voters (give or take a million) voted for the regime. These same people watch/listen/read official media and would not be caught dead paying attention to private media. They even still despise Globovision.

      So yes, we should be outraged at this money being thrown down the drain as much as any amount of money mismanaged, “misplaced” etc. by the government.

      • Cant disagree with you there , any public money wasted or mispent is a loss to all of us , still there are instances of waste and fraud which we know about and which involve much more money than is the case here . For whatever reason I get to know about many cases which are not common knowldge and which cause me such great indignation and that for my own mental health I try not to dwell on too much .

    • He also said “ser rico es malo”, but you see he died rich as sin, so maybe the actual message was “be as hypocrite as you can, always”

  4. Roberto, thanks for a well-written and referenced informative post. I believe the importance isn’t in the amount spent on Official media, but the saturation of Venezuelan media by the Official lies/viewpoint, to the virtual exclusion of any dissenting opinion; this,even in the unread/un-educated country that Venezuela is today, does have a reaffirmative impact in a Goebbelian way, at least on the 30% or so that is the hardcore Chavista base.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, NET. It encourages me to keep posting.

      I am, however, going to disagree with you in your characterization of Venezuela as a wholly uneducated country. While it’s evident that most of our intellectual force has spread around the world [been exiled (?)], that our test scores are shameful, and that the quality of research in our universities has stymied, I stubbornly refuse to cast that shadow across every corner of the nation. We still have a few thinkers standing in line to buy soap.

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