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[infowar.de] Chavez TV: Painful birth for new station in war of words with Washington
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'Chavez TV' beams into South America
Painful birth for new station in war of words with Washington
Alfonso Daniels in Caracas
Tuesday July 26, 2005
A swastika painted on a US flag flashes across the screen. Out of sight a
voice proclaims: "Let's recover our memory and history from the claws of
the Empire ..." The voice is replaced by anti-imperialist chants and
metallic sounds, then the screen goes dark.
Welcome to Telesur, Latin America's answer to CNN and the BBC World Service.
A few minutes after 12pm local time on Sunday the new TV channel began
broadcasting a pilot service from studios in the Venezuelan capital,
Caracas, with a team of 25 journalists in nine regional bureaux presenting
news "from a Latin American perspective".
Telesur promoters describe it as an antidote to western-controlled media
hegemony. But even before its launch the channel was being attacked in
Washington as a vehicle for anti-US propaganda, with the House of
Representatives last week voting to enable the US to broadcast its own
signals into Venezuela in retaliation.
In response, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's left-leaning president, threatened
to engage in "electronic warfare" with the US if the amendment makes it
through the Senate.
The war of words has made for a painful birth for the new channel whose
36-strong advisory committee - designed to offer it an aura of legitimacy
- include Nobel-Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, film directors Pino
Solanas and Jorge Sangines, and writers Richard Stallman, Eduardo Galeano
and Tariq Ali.
Telesur's director, Aram Aharonian, says the committee's goal is to remind
Telesur of its objectives: to help integrate the continent, show
perspectives on Latin American countries ignored by large corporations
such as CNN and Reuters, and incorporate those without a voice to
transform the region's unfair structures.
The channel will also show classic and contemporary Latin American films
and a mix of experimental documentaries by young filmmakers.
"We've bought part of the offer available, but we're discovering everyday
new young directors," says Telesur's producer Nohra Rodriguez, amid the
excited buzz of the 60, mostly young, staff coming from across Latin America.
If the pilot succeeds, Telesur's staff will rise by September to 150 with
inhouse programming jumping from four to eight hours a day, adding new
features such as in-depth news reports, and regional music and tourism shows.
All will be produced for and by Latin Americans, except some contemporary
independent films dubbed Nojolivud (No Hollywood).
Although Telesur is backed by the governments of Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay
and Brazil, the driving force has been President Chavez, whose government
has contributed 70% of Telesur's $10m (£5.7m) financing and owns 51% of
the channel. Real power inside Telesur will rest on a seven-strong board
of directors led by Venezuela's communications minister, Andres Izarra -
"the Turner of Telesur" as he is dubbed, in reference to Ted Turner,
founder of CNN.
The direct involvement of Caracas has fuelled criticism in the US. Ties
between the two countries have deteriorated in the last few years, most
notably after the implicit support by the US for the failed coup against
Mr Chavez in April 2002, and Washington's rising anger over the Venezuelan
president's close association with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
At the heart of US concern is Venezuela's position as one of the US's most
important - and until recently reliable - oil suppliers. Last week's
amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorisation Act allowing the beaming
of pro-US television and radio broadcasts into Venezuela was supported by
both Republicans and Democrats, with one member of Congress accusing Mr
Chavez of being a "menace in our hemisphere".
But the new channel Telesur has not been immune to criticism in Latin
America, with some dubbing it "Telechavez".
Critics say that in December Mr Izarra was responsible for passing a new
media law allowing the prosecution of opposition TV and radio stations and
that Telesur's headquarters are located in an annex belonging to
Venezuela's communications ministry.
During Sunday's launch Mr Izarra told Telesur's audience that the station
was not directed against the people of the US, but was "erupting onto the
international scene" to counter cultural imperialism.
The channel's first news programme began with a critical report on the
failure of the humanitarian mission in Haiti, led by Brazil, followed by a
story on the plight of refugees in Colombia.
If Telesur continues in a similar vein the US may not be the only country
to have its feathers ruffled by the new television station.
Media spin: South America set for Al Jazeera-style Chavez-backed TV
Posted on Friday, May 06 @ 18:57:10 EST
A Venezuelan-backed TV network modeled after Al Jazeera is set to begin
broadcasts throughout South America. Critics fear it could become a pulpit
for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Telesur, short for "Television of
the South," is billed as a commercial-free, hemispherewide counterbalance
to North American media. It is slated to begin broadcasts within a few
weeks. "Soon we will have Telesur, a channel with information for South
American countries, because is not possible that Venezuela and the other
southern countries depend only on information from CNN," Mr. Chavez said
during a March press conference in Paris, according to a report on a
Venezuelan government Web site.
Mr. Chavez has aggressively promoted the network in recent months and
landed varying degrees of support from left-leaning governments in
Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, as well as Cuba. Telesur's arrival comes
amid claims by a ranking Venezuelan official that Al Jazeera is expanding
its news coverage from Latin America and planning to establish a regional
bureau in Caracas.
Like Al Jazeera, which receives state funding from Qatar's oil revenues,
Telesur will rely in large part on government largess from Venezuela, a
major global oil supplier. Al Jazeera "has determined that Venezuela is a
strategic place that is going to permit it to cover to all the region,"
said Andres Izarra, Venezuela's minister of communication and information.
The government document describes Al Jazeera's expansion as being "framed
in the Al Jazeera-Telesur project."
"It is my understanding is that there is an agreement to extend office
space, and that Caracas will serve as the central hub for Al Jazeera's
South American coverage," said Nikolas Kozloff, an analyst for the
Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA). Jihad Ballout, an
Al Jazeera spokesman reached by telephone in Qatar, confirmed that Al
Jazeera is looking to open bureaus in Venezuela and in Brazil. When asked
if working agreements existed between Telesur and Al Jazeera, Mr. Ballout
said, "I am not aware of any definite plans. It is possible, but I cannot
A COHA report on Telesur, authored by Mr. Kozloff, said the Chavez
government has already contributed $2.5 million to Telesur and that it
plans to invest $56 million in Venezuelan state-run television. Mr. Chavez
has also convinced other governments to join Telesur. On March 1, Tabare
Vasquez, Uruguay's first socialist president, pledged to support Telesur,
which plans news feeds from correspondents in the United States and
throughout Latin America. Uruguay will fund 10 percent of the venture in
exchange for the right to name a member to the network's board of
directors. Argentina on Feb. 1 pledged its support through a bilateral
accord with Venezuela. Argentina will, among other things, acquire up to
20 percent of Telesur's initial equity stock, share human resources,
provide satellite signals and 100 hours of Argentine content per month.
Venezuela state news reports also say Cuba and Brazil have agreed to share
programming and trade expertise.
The network has already lined up several respected journalists. Aram
Aharonian, the news director, is a well-known Uruguay-born journalist, and
Jorge Enrique Botero, is a famed Colombian television producer. The
Venezuelan Ministry of Communications, Telesur's news director and its
Argentina-based correspondent all failed to respond to multiple interview
requests. Telesur, observers say, could help Mr. Chavez compete with
private media companies in Venezuela that sided against him during a
failed coup in 2002.
Mr. Chavez already uses state-funded television to promote his political
agenda. He has his own Sunday show, "Alo, Presidente," which is broadcast
by Venezolana de Television, prompting questions about Telesur's future
independence. "It should be Telesur, not TeleChavez," wrote Jorge Ramos of
Univision, the Spanish-language media giant.
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