Re: [OPE-L] battle over the media in Venezuela is about race and class

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 07 2007 - 13:15:00 EDT

I hope Mike L does not agree with this lame apology
for an attack on freedom of speech and, in my opinion,
a politically stupid move on the part of Chávez.
Imagine George Bush canceling the license to broadcast
of an extreme left TV channel in the US (if there was
one). The democratic principle of freedom of speech
and freedom of the media from government control does
not only apply to capitalist countries. It must apply
to all societies that claim to be democratic. The
apology is not only lame but at times sounds racist
against whites. Cheers, ajit sinha
--- glevy@PRATT.EDU wrote:

> via Mike L.
> The battle over the media is about race as well as
> class
> The protests in Venezuela are motivated by more
> than a TV station. The oligarchy fears it is
> losing its right to run the country
> Richard Gott in Caracas
> Thursday June 7, 2007
> The Guardian
> After 10 days of rival protests in the streets of
> Caracas, memories have been revived of earlier
> attempts to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution
> of Hugo Chávez, now in its ninth year. Street
> demonstrations, culminating in an attempted coup
> in 2002 and a prolonged lock-out at the national
> oil industry, once seemed the last resort of an
> opposition unable to make headway at the polls.
> Yet the current unrest is a feeble echo of those
> tumultuous events, and the political struggle
> takes place on a smaller canvas. Today's battle
> is for the hearts and minds of a younger
> generation confused by the upheavals of an uncharted
> revolutionary process.
> University students from privileged backgrounds
> have been pitched against newly enfranchised
> young people from the impoverished shantytowns,
> beneficiaries of the increased oil royalties
> spent on higher education projects for the poor.
> These separate groups never meet, but both sides
> occupy their familiar battleground within the
> city, one in the leafy squares of eastern
> Caracas, the other in the narrow and teeming
> streets in the west. This symbolic battle will
> become ever more familiar in Latin America in the
> years ahead: rich against poor, white against
> brown and black, immigrant settlers against
> indigenous peoples, privileged minorities against
> the great mass of the population. History may
> have come to an end in other parts of the world,
> but in this continent historical processes are in
> full flood.
> Ostensibly the argument is about the media, and
> the government's decision not to renew the
> broadcasting licence of a prominent station,
> Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), and to hand its
> frequencies to a newly established state channel.
> What are the rights of commercial television
> channels? What are the responsibilities of those
> funded by the state? Where should the balance
> between them lie? Academic questions in Europe
> and the US, the debate in Latin America is loud
> and impassioned. Here there is little tradition
> of public broadcasting, and commercial stations
> often received their licence in the days of military
> rule.
> The debate in Venezuela has less to do with the
> alleged absence of freedom of expression than
> with a perennially tricky issue locally referred
> to as "exclusion", a shorthand term for "race"
> and "racism". RCTV was not just a politically
> reactionary organisation which supported the 2002
> coup attempt against a democratically elected
> government - it was also a white supremacist
> channel. Its staff and presenters, in a country
> largely of black and indigenous descent, were
> uniformly white, as were the protagonists of its
> soap operas and the advertisements it carried. It
> was "colonial" television, reflecting the desires
> and ambitions of an external power.
> At the final, close-down party of RCTV last
> month, those most in view on the screen were
> long-haired and pulchritudinous young blondes.
> Such images make for excellent television
> watching by European and North American males,
> and these languorous blondes are indeed familiar
> figures from the Miss World and Miss Universe
> competitions in which the children of recent
> immigrants from Europe are invariably Venezuela's
> chief contenders. Yet their ubiquity on the
> screen prevented the channel from presenting a
> mirror to the society that it sought to serve or
> to entertain. To watch a Venezuelan commercial
> station (and several still survive) is to imagine
> that you have been transported to the US.
> Everything is based on a modern, urban and
> industrialised society, remote from the
> experience of most Venezuelans. Their programmes,
> argues Aristóbulo Istúriz, until recently
> Chávez's minister of education (and an
> Afro-Venezuelan), encourage racism, discrimination
> and exclusion.
> The new state-funded channels (and there are
> several of them too, plus innumerable community
> radio stations) are doing something completely
> different, and unusual in the competitive world
> of commercial television. Their programmes look
> as though they are taking place in Venezuela, and
> they display the cross-section of the population
> to be seen on cross-country buses or on the
> Caracas metro. As in every country in the world,
> not everyone in Venezuela is a natural beauty.
> Many are old, ugly and fat. Today they are given
> a voice and a face on the television channels of
> the state. Many are deaf or hard of hearing. Now
> they have sign language interpretation on every
> programme. Many are inarticulate peasants. They
> too have their moment on the screen. Their
> immediate and dangerous struggle for land is not
> just being observed by a documentary film-maker
> from the city. They are being taught to make the
> films themselves.
> Blanca Eekhout, the head of Vive TV, the
> government's cultural channel, launched two years
> ago, coined the slogan "Don't watch television,
> make it". Classes in film-making have been set up
> all over the country. Lil Rodríguez, an
> Afro-Venezuelan journalist and the boss of TVES,
> the channel that replaces RCTV, claims that it
> will become "a useful space for rescuing those
> values that other models of television always
> ignore, especially our Afro-heritage". With time,
> the excluded will find a voice within the
> mainstream.
> Little of this is under discussion in the
> dialogue of the deaf on the streets of Caracas.
> For the protesting university students, the
> argument about the media is just one more stick
> with which to hit out against the ever-popular
> Chávez. Yet as they mourn the loss of their
> favourite soap operas, they are already aware
> that their eventual loss may be more substantial.
> As children of the oligarchy, they might have
> expected soon to run the country. Now fresh faces
> are emerging from the shantytowns to challenge
> them, a new class educating itself at speed and
> planning to seize their birthright.
> Just a few weeks ago, Chávez outlined his plans
> for university reform, encouraging wider access
> and the development of a different curriculum.
> New colleges and technical institutes across the
> country will dilute the prestige of the older
> establishments, still the preserve of the
> wealthy, and the battle over the media will soon
> be submerged in a wider struggle for educational
> reform. Chávez takes no notice of the complaints
> and simply soldiers on, with the characteristics
> of an evangelical preacher: he urges people to
> lead moral lives, live simply and resist the lure
> of consumerism. He is embarked on a challenge to
> the established order that has long prevailed in
> Venezuela and throughout the rest of Latin
> America, hoping that the message of his cultural
> revolution will soon echo across the continent.
> ˇ Richard Gott is the author of Hugo Chávez and the
> Bolivarian Revolution
> Michael A. Lebowitz
> Professor Emeritus
> Economics Department
> Simon Fraser University
> Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
> Director, Programme in 'Transformative Practice and
> Human Development'
> Centro Internacional Miranda, P.H.
> Residencias Anauco Suites, Parque Central, final Av.
> Bolivar
> Caracas, Venezuela
> fax: 0212 5768274/0212 5777231
> http//

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