Telesur feels the sting (and the hegemony too)

Hegemony member Telesur has turned to a pledge drive to save them from "economic an political prosecution" (Chavista code for "going broke"). How's the State's media apparatus really doing?

Ahead of its upcoming 10th anniversary, Telesur recently launched a brand new campaign: “Ciudadano Telesur“, asking people for contributions, in order to “…continue reporting the news with truth and accuracy” and “…build a more informed world”.

At first, I thought it was a citizen journalism initiative akin to CNN’s iReport. How wrong I was…

Telesur just wants your money; in order to create “…a world where individuals think critically, debate and make informed decisions”. Really humble, these folks.

The campaign insists that information is “a right, not a business”, but the station is also offering more tangible benefits like “invitations to special events taking place in your city, shirts to those who recruit five new donors and advance access to TV guide and news”. You know, just in case.

For those living abroad, you can donate via PayPal. For those inside Venezuela, there’s a special account in the largest State bank (Banco de Venezuela).

Some will probably believe that this isn’t different of giving 20 bucks to Greenpeace or Amnesty International. I just want to say: Buyer beware. Telesur is part of the Venezuelan government’s media machinery.

So, what could be the reasons behind this new pledge drive? In the launch video, Telesur chairman Patricia Villegas admits that “…their mission is at risk” because of alleged political persecution. But as recent developments show, the so-called Latin-American alternative to CNN is most likely facing quite a financial pinch.

A couple of days after Ciudadano Telesur was launched, some of the station’s workers held a protest over low wages and lack of social programs like Mercal. Some of the salaries are allegedly even below minimum wage. Telesur representative Helga Malave admitted the problem and promised a raise, even if she didn’t know the discontent among the workers. Obviously, she puts the blame on “…an economic war to push (Nicolás) Maduro out of power”.

And Telesur isn’t the only State media station having issues: A group of 12 TVES workers denounced at least 30 firings to Human Rights NGO Provea, which violates the current labor immobility status. Even the hegemony’s TV flagship station VTV faces labor issues, with recent claims of abuse against workers. Interestingly enough, those claims are nothing new. Matter of fact, they are been happening for years.

Regardless of economic ordeals or labor irregularities, the hegemony keeps on doing their job of pushing its agenda. Recently, the Communications & Information Ministry issued a new series of ads explaining the economic war in detail. The ads are shown as part of the daily 10 minutes that every TV and radio station must give to MinCI by Law. Those ten minutes should be used for “public service announcements”, as which these evidently don´t qualify. To tackle those kinds of abuses, last week the National Assembly passed the “Simultaneous Broadcasts, Official Advertising and Public Media Bill”, better known as the “Anti-Cadenas Bill”. The legislation wants to curb the excessive use of State media for political purposes and was promised by the MUD coalition as one of its first priorities in parliament. BTW, the PSUV deputies didn’t bother to discuss it as they dropped out of the session earlier. To justify this legislation, the head of the AN’s Media Commission, Biaggio Pileri (MUD-Yaracuy) said that Nicolas Maduro made 638 cadenas between 2013 and the first trimester of 2016. The proposal also wants to limit the use of state advertising as a political tool to punish dissident media outlets, something already covered in detail in two reports by NGO IPYS Venezuela last year. The bill wants to replace parts of the infamous RESORTEME Law, which I labeled as “…the most unbelievably vague mass of legislation” in an interview two years ago.

Yet, it must face a new round of consultations and a second reading. If you want to take a look, the current draft is available in the following link (in Spanish only). Of course, it’s quite expected that it could be shut down even before its final approval by the State’s legal shredder, better known as the TSJ’s Constitutional Chamber.