Is Peak Hegemony Behind Us?

As the government starts hounding Globovision all over again for - gasp - covering the elected National Assembly, Communicational Hegemony is looking a whole lot less formidable than it once did.

Remember the old days when Globovision was the last stand against the State’s total dominion of the Venezuelan airwaves? One of the most common images during those times were the frequent visits made by inspectors of the broadcasting authority (CONATEL) to inform the channel about the opening of an administrative investigation and how the channel turned these visits into a huge news event.

In May 2013, just before the station was sold to still un-identified regime-friendly investors, at least ten administrative procedures were open against the channel, with each one involving heavy financial fines and the threat of a full shutdown. Some consider that paying the huge fine regarding their coverage of El Rodeo prison riot in 2011 was the breaking point for the previous owners, given how they used the cryptic term “obligated intention to sell” to justify this operation.

Well, seems like the clock is turning back. During his live program on mid-Monday, journalist Vladimir Villegas informed that members of CONATEL were visiting the station. He used the opportunity to mention that Globovision’s broadcasting license has been expired since March of last year and that the blame for the lack of renewal fell completely with the regulator.

In a written statement published hours later, CONATEL dismissed Villegas’s opinions as “false and uninformed” and complained that Globovision is attempting to pressure the State regarding its status.

This impasse comes right after Nicolás Maduro threatened both Globovision and fellow channel Televen in the last few weeks. He considers that their coverage of the new National Assembly is quite similar to the events of April 2002. Villegas (who has become the main face of the news channel) has responded to Maduro’s claims on the air. A complete 180° of what were more kinder, “accomodating” times between both men.

Is the communicational hegemony starting to worry that Globovision is going rogue? There’s evidence that sustains those suspicions. And since the new National Assembly began work last month, people have been tuning in and it seems like Globovision is the big winner by giving extensive coverage to the parliamentary sessions. But this goes against the hegemony’s planned scenario of minimizing the AN’s role. So naturally, we have a conflict.

What is undeniable is that since the 6-D defeat and the re-opening of parliament to the press, we might be on the other side of “peak hegemony”.

Recently named Communication and Information Minister Luis José Marcano admitted last week on Twitter that “the country doesn’t need more media outlets, but more and better content”. Along with the recent cabinet reshuffle, some State media outlets have changed their heads.

None of which is to suggests the tight grip the State still has over the press will collapse any time soon: both censorship and self-censorship is the norm in many local newrooms while newspapers have the shadow of Newsprint-geddon over their heads.  

Even if the hegemony remains strong, there’s now showing a crack on its shell.