CARACAS, Saturday March 09, 2013 | Update

"They are bent on enhancing the Government's propaganda scheme"

Discontent surrounds the state's position to support only official sector communication initiative

On March 2, Minister Ernesto Villegas launched Sibci, a program aimed at propagating "the truth" through unorthodox means, such as murals, megaphoning, billboards and other alternative media (Photo: AVN)
Saturday March 09, 2013  12:00 AM
According to mass media experts Oscar Lucien and Carlos Correa, director of NGO Espacio Público, having society take part in the government's propaganda efforts and communicational sectarianism throughout the country is one of the goals of the Bolivarian Information and Communication System (known as Sibci), announced on March 2 by Minister Ernesto Villegas.

Both note that it is impossible to talk about democratization of media if a significant portion of society is being excluded.

Correa believes that, under the banner of communicational democratization, only media backing the government is reaping benefits: "This is not right because one of the main roles of media throughout society is to channel criticism, listen to different opinions and foster debate not only amongst those who think alike or share the same outlook."

Correa uses ANTV, the National Assembly's television channel, as an example because "it caters only to majorities, but it should take into account all sectors holding seats in the Parliament. Majorities trample minorities, and that is far from democratic."

Correa applauds that the government fosters communication strategies from the population but is worried that they may be deemed a part of public media. "The issue is that, in our country, public-sector media disregards standards even though they are supposed to be run by an independent institution. Equipment is being supplied only to people backing the government party and not necessarily upholding the goals of the state, which must always place above the goals of the party in office. Stimulating communication initiatives originating from only one sector is biased."

With regards to the democratization of private media mentioned by then Executive Vice-President Nicolás Maduro, Correa explained that democratization happens as more media arise, not by meddling into each media organization. "Communication initiatives of this nature must be addressed without involvement of the executive branch of government, a practice that cannot be secured in Venezuela."

Media expert Oscar Lucien believes that this announcement stems from the intention to strengthen, by involving society, the government's propaganda scheme as well as the goals of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV): "That is the instrumentation of community for the political project of the incumbent government. They are the ones supposedly compelled to tell "the truth"; a more militant mechanism is being developed to spread the story of what is taking place."

For Lucien, this initiative resembles the scheme to launch communicational guerilla that, he believes, failed because society does not relate to what is being said.

"The totalitarian nature of the system is being put on display. Despite a high number of channels and media, this is not enough for them, and society does not feel represented. This media has fallen hostage to a political project that uses them for propagandistic purposes. When RCTV was shut down, it was done for the purpose of democratizing media, but ratings went from 45% to 3%. That is far from democratization because the audience is not duly represented by those channels."

Lucien warned about the permanent danger that TV channels and the press face in Venezuela because the model being copied is Cuban: "This danger is imminent because the political model trying to be implemented in Venezuela leaves no room for independent media. If you compare it with Cuba's, you will find that there is no private media; all communication derives from entities controlled by the Cuban Communist Party."

He explained that three main aspects deeply affect private media: advertising, taxes and self-censorship "which is the most perverse mean that leaves no trail."

The expert concluded by pointing out that the government "intends to implement a propagandistic model that involves society in its political model. In the end, total control is sought by any means."

Nevertheless, Lucien highly doubts the efficiency of the new system: "We will have to see people's reaction upon being shouted at on a Sunday morning through a loudspeaker aimed at their windows."

Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
The end of a cycle

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil on March 13 to demand the ouster of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, carrying banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes. A banner read "We don't want a new Venezuela in Brazil."