Two weeks ago, no one expected that one of the first controversies between the outgoing chavista-controlled National Assembly and the MUD’s new majority would be about the fate of the two media outlets that belong to the Venezuelan parliament.
As Daniel Cadena Jordan recently wrote, ANTV and AN-Radio have been at the center of a heated polemic. ANTV was created in 2005 to cover the sessions of our National Assembly, originally as a kind of criollo C-SPAN.
But ANTV turned out to be nothing like a C-SPAN. Even if it’s legally part of the Legislative Branch, it’s a member of the State Media System (SIBCI), under control of the Communication and Information Ministry. Indeed, the content on ANTV and AN-Radio is indistinguishable from what you find on any state-run propaganda outlet: loud, strident, unfailingly partisan invective.
Following PSUV’s electoral drubbing on 6D, and afraid of losing one element of the communicational hegemony, outgoing AN chair Diosdado Cabello just “ordered” to broadcasting authority CONATEL giving away the full control of both outlets to their workers. But apparently, those workers were kept out of the loop before this announcement.
What’s more, some of them are outright rejecting the move, because it isn’t what they actually want at all. They don’t want to “own” the channel, they want the guarantees on job security, salaries and benefits they’d get as public employees, and Diosdado’s move takes them farther from that, not nearer.
As both ANTV and their hegemony partners get busy playing the victim card, it’s important to point out that, however crass Ramos Allup’s language may have been, his main points are more than vaild: neither ANTV nor AN-Radio do anything like responsible journalism. Matter of fact, NGO IPYS just released a study of the channel’s programming last month and confirmed how it dedicated almost exclusively to campaign for the PSUV-GPP and its candidates.
And what about the workers, you ask? The idea that Cabello’s move is meant to protect them makes little sense. Recently, Luis Eduardo Ynciarte one of ANTV’s anchors, resigned live on air (you can see the video above), complining over his pitiful salary. And earlier in October, several ANTV’s workers were fired because they tried to form an independent union. Some of them directly blamed Diosdado Cabello and fellow PSUV MP Dario Vivas (who’s the head of ANTV) for the dismissals.
Right after the 2010 election, ANTV became the only authorized source of information inside the Assembly’s premises, thanks to a legal reform which banned all journalists of the sessions chamber and forced them into a tiny press room. Opposition MP only appear in ANTV during live coverage and even then the channel did whatever it takes to minimize their presence. I don’t remember a single time when a member of the MUD was interviewed there or a MUD’s press conference was shown live. And if something the government didn’t want known happened on the floor of the AN – say, if pro-government assembly members decided to beat up their opposition counterparts ANTV could just point the cameras in the other direction. And did. If nobody happened to snap a cell-phone video, you’d never know it happened.
In the case of AN-Radio, there’s no much to say about its content but plenty about its creation: The frequency used by the station was formerly the flagship station of the Circuito Nacional Belford (CNB), seized by CONATEL in 2009. Who know who was the head of CONATEL back then?
Diosdado Cabello, of course.
Everyone can see this stuff about protecting the ANTV and AN-Radio workers is a pretext. What they’re really afraid of is the idea of a channel open to all political points of view (even those not represented in the new National Assembly, like dissident chavismo) and capable of defusing both the political polarization and the rigid control of the State’s hegemony.
It’s an new feeling for me, finding I agree with Henry Ramos Allup on something. I won’t endorse an oppostion-only ANTV or AN-Radio to keep doing the very same things Chavismo has done so far with them. But if ANTV can be coaxed into a minimal of professionalism and impartiality, we’ll be all the better for it.
One tiny request: Julio, don’t put any given assemblymember in charge of these stations. Legislators were elected to legislate, no to run media,