Almost every day in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez interrupts programming on the nation’s TV networks to deliver speeches and to propagandise for his government — the stations have no choice but to transmit his broadcasts, which last up to three hours.
However, such tyrannical (and boring) media control is not enough for the self-proclaimed “socialist” president. At the end of July, a new South American news network, Telesur, was launched as an “initiative against cultural imperialism”.
Chavez’s claim that Telesur is independent is highly dubious. Not only does the Venezuelan government own 51% of the station, but 19% is controlled by Chavez’s ally Fidel Castro. Indeed, the chances of Telesur offering objective coverage of South American politics are further weakened by the fact that the network president, Andres Izarra, was Chavez’s information minister until the station began transmission.
The Venezuelan president has made it clear that the station is going to be a mouthpiece for his populist politics. He has claimed that it will “contribute to the construction of a new world”. It has scared the USA’s House of Representatives into passing a bill which will allow the USA to beam its own propaganda into Venezuela. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the presence of the Liberal Democrat-voting Tariq Ali on the advisory board that controls output will provide a brake on the channel’s leftism.
Programmes billed for the channel so far include a documentary in praise of Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, the leader of Colombia’s Stalinist guerrillas (FARC) and a weekly one man show “Alo, Presidente”, planned to give Chavez a platform to address the continent.
We should have no illusions that this is the way to take on the American corporate media and right-wing broadcasting. The Venezuelan workers should take control of the media. The working class needs to be given a voice to attack both the USA’s desire to control Venezuelan oil and the failures of Hugo Chavez’s regime.