Inside the hegemony: Huge but hollow

Cilia Flores has her own TV show on Sunday nights? Thanks for reminding me to NOT watch it.

For all the coverage that Caracas Chronicles has given to the State’s communicational hegemony all these years, two things are certain:

First, it has grown so large that it has devoured our media landscape and changed our public sphere in a drastic and overwhelmingly negative way.

And second, its overall content is dedicated exclusively to propaganda purposes, without offering a serious alternative to entertain and inform while minimizing its possible effects in the audience at large and sacrificing quality in the process. As Bowie once sang “It’s just a saddening bore…”

A couple of press articles deal with those two points and give us a deep look of how the hegemony has both succeeded and failed all the same.

First up is El Nacional’s Franz Von Bergen with an extensive report of what he calls “the red hegemony”. And it is really big: last year, the State administered 37 media outlets including ten TV channels, eight radio stations, 17 print publications and two Internet web-exclusive portals. If you include “community media,” the number goes to 600. Even without including HegemonCorp.-owned outlets, the central government has a clear hold of our media, specially in the radio and TV departments.

The central government has increased financial resources to the State Media System, while at the same time putting pressure on independent outlets, thanks to legal action or using currency as coercive tool (as in Newsprint-geddon). The report is lenghty, but it is full of useful information and serves as an introduction on how the hegemony works.

But yet, Venezuelans are not tuning in. The main State channel VTV only gets less than 5% of ratings.

Why is that?

The Guardian tries to answer this question and reaches the conclusion that the hegemony isn’t interested in giving audiences what they want, but what their bosses think they want.

The latest example is “Con Cilia en Familia”, a new show hosted by first lady combatant Cilia Flores. I didn’t watch it, but this synopsis makes the show as appealing as an enema:

The first edition of Flores’s show – Con Cilia en Familia or With Cilia in the Family – featured the once-fiery lawyer in decidedly demure mode. “Blessings for all these beautiful children,” she said as the cameras followed her around a paediatric hospital in the opening sequence. This was followed by a trip to an old people’s home, then videotaped reminiscences with cabinet ministers about key moments in the history of the Bolivarian socialist revolution.”

The hegemony has tried to expand beyond rolling news coverage and punditry pot-boilers like La Hojilla and Zurda Konducta. They have spent who knows how much in sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup. They even got the rights for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight last week – in dollars, presumably at a preferential exchane rate, because that is how they operate.

Meanwhile, they have also tried to get into the soap opera business. Their latest production “Guerreras and Centauros” (Female Warriors and Centaurs, set during the Independence Wars) has made more headlines for controversies prior to its dayview than for the show itself.

In the end, this confirms something: it’s easier to repress than to create. It’s easier to intimidate than to inspire. It’s easier to censor than to debate. Sadly, we are seeing this happening not just here but in different parts of the world.

Instead of strengthening its content, the hegemony has limited people’s options. And don’t expect that to change with the newest Information & Communication Minister, former MP Desiree Santos Amaral.