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One belief that many well-educated Americans have is that Venezuela's government controls its media. According to this belief, this is the reason why Hugo Chávez continuously wins elections. Since all the television channels and newspapers are pro-Chávez, the common people are "tricked" into supporting him.

In fact, this appears to be a completely false myth. On balance, Venezuela's media is anti-Chávez. A person who watches Venezuelan news coverage, listens to a Venezuelan radio program, or picks up a Venezuelan newspaper is more likely than not to hear bad things about Chávez.

More below.

There's a reason why Americans believe that Chávez controls the Venezuelan media; all the American media continuously publishes stories about media suppression undertaken by the Chávez government. (For examples, see here, here, and here.) These stories are not false in the sense that they describe events which actually happened (i.e. Chávez has taken action against anti-Chávez network RCTV). But they are very misleading.

Let's take a look at television. Venezuelan television is dominated by four networks: Venevisión, Televen, Globovisión, and Venezolana de Televisión (VTV). Of these four networks, Venevisión and Televen are moderately anti-Chávez, Globovisión is extremely anti-Chávez, and VTV is extremely pro-Chávez. Venevisión and Televen hold 60% of the TV audience in Venezuela. VTV appears to hold only 6% of Venezuelans.

According to this article (published by a pro-Chávez newspaper), during the first week of the presidential campaign three of these four channels gave more favorable coverage to Chávez's opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski. Televen gave 15 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 28 minutes to his opponent; Venevisión gave 9 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 75 minutes to his opponent; Globovisión gave 56 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 8 hours and 38 minutes to his opponent; and only VTV gave 8 hours and 26 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez compared with 3 hours and 23 minutes to his opponent.

American media outlets often claim that government television is overwhelmingly favorable towards Chávez. This is true but misleading. VTV, the government network, is biased for Chávez, as the statistics indicate. But only six percent of Venezuelans watch VTV. Another claim is that Chávez often interrupts news programming with hours of cadenas, which this Times article beautifully describes as "torrents of propaganda usually in the form of a speech delivered to a handpicked audience of Chávez loyalists." But are the cadenas enough to outweigh the 23 other hours of anti-Chávez broadcasting?

Let's take a look at print media. Venezuela has three major newspapers: Últimas Noticias, El Nacional, and El Universal. Últimas Noticias is pro-Chávez; El Nacional and El Universal are anti-Chávez. El Nacional is owned by Miguel Henrique Otero, a founder of the anti-Chávez organization Movimiento 2D.  As for El Universal, this is what it published during the failed 2002 coup d'état against Chávez:


Note that ¡Un Paso Adelante! means "A Step Forward!" in English.

Finally, let's look at radio coverage. While some American media articles indicate that it's getting harder and harder to find anti-Chávez radio stations, other sources are more skeptical. For instance, Mark Weisbrot - whose article was actually the inspiration for this post - writes:

According to CONATEL data, only about 14 percent of radio is publicly owned; and since there is more strongly anti-government radio in Venezuela than TV, the opposition almost certainly has more advantage in radio than in other media.
Indeed, it seems that the Venezuelan media played a major role in supporting the failed 2002 coup d'état against Chávez. Coup plotters collaborated with Venezuelan media figures before the coup. The media refused to show statements by officials condemning the coup d'état. When the coup d'état failed, the private Venezuelan networks refused to broadcast the news that Chávez had returned to power.

Since the failed coup, the tone of the media - especially Televen and Venevisión - has become less anti-Chávez. Nevertheless, most Venezuelan media is owned by right-wing business elites who loathe Hugo Chávez. Most Venezuelan media played an active part in in the failed 2002 coup d'état against him.

In writing this post, I should note that I am not a supporter of Hugo Chávez; indeed, I have previously criticized his failure to reduce inequality in Venezuela. If I were Venezuelan, I would vote against Chávez and for the opposition.

But one's personal dislike of Hugo Chávez has nothing to do with the bias of Venezuela's media. It's fair to say that, on balance, Venezuela's media is biased against Hugo Chávez. Unfortunately, too many journalists writing in too many American media sources have let their dislike of Chávez blind them to the truth. This has left too many intelligent Americans badly misinformed.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Oligarchs are the same the world around (8+ / 0-)

    we have our share in the US, where I'm from, and in the country where I now live as an expat.

    I'd vote for Chavez, for the same reason I voted for Obama. He's far from perfect, but far better than the alternative.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 05:57:43 PM PST

  •  To be honest (7+ / 0-)

    I'm going to trust the Committee to Protect Journalists on this one.

    It's not saying that he 'controls' all of its media, but he exercises undemocratic influence over a massive section and treats the rest with a contempt that ill-befits any real democracy.

    •  I'd also add (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      charliehall2, Miggles, IM

      that I'd prefer a different source for the information on media bias than an editorial in a pro-Chavez newspaper (imagine a FOX news report on media bias, and extrapolate from there.)  The editorial cites something called the NEC, but I don't know what that is or where the information comes from.   Other statements by the same author - e.g. "foiling the advances of UNESCO to create a New World Order" - give me a little pause when it comes to assessing this without a grain of salt.

      All that being said, this isn't territory I know well, so that's as far as I'll take it.  Inoljt may well be right that the media environment isn't as consolidated as it's often presumed to be, and it may not entirely conflict with the CPJ report, either.  But I'll leave it there.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 06:30:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The NEC is the Consejo Nacional Electoral (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JesseCW, pico, Sandino, ZenTrainer

        or the National Electoral Council of Venezuela:

        You're not going to get a purely neutral and unbiased report in a Venezuelan newspaper. Every newspaper either has a pro-Chávez or anti-Chávez slant. The same holds true for American newspapers; every newspaper has either a pro-Obama or anti-Obama slant.

        by Inoljt on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 06:45:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not expecting purely neutral, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but I do think the editorial you're linking to is a bit suspect, for the reasons I outlined above.   Then again, I don't expect to get a full course in Venezuelan media, which is a lot of work and much more than a diary can handle.

          I think you might be a little reductive with the "slant" thing, though.  Media biases (unavoidable) aren't necessarily going to line up in partisan ways (avoidable, but common).  

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 07:45:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yup they show how the Chavez regime (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi, BillyZoom, auapplemac, Frisbeetarian

      is covering up its biggest failure: the massive increase in violent crime that makes Venezuela one of the most dangerous places in the world:

      Crime is an especially sensitive subject. Recent polls found that more than 80 percent of Venezuelans nationwide list crime as a top worry. However, law enforcement officials are slow to publish homicide statistics, with the most recent figures dating to 2010. The head of Venezuela’s police force recently told state media that the murder rate in Caracas had dropped in 2012, but he did not provide specific homicide figures—instead, he cited the number of arrests on murder charges. Often, reporters publish their own data based on police reports or compilations by non-governmental groups such as the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which says there are about 60 murders per year per 100,000 Venezuelans—one of the world’s highest rates.

      The newspaper reporter in Maracay said crime statistics that used to receive prominent display in her paper are downplayed, with most such news published in the community section, where local residents write to denounce problems.

      Journalists have also been hampered by court rulings to limit publication of photos showing death or violence. In August 2010, the privately owned El Nacional published a photograph showing an overwhelmed Caracas morgue, with naked bodies piled on the tables and floor. A court then issued a temporary injunction banning the newspaper from printing images that contain “blood, guns, alarming messages, or physical aggression that could alter the psychological and moral well-being of children and adolescents.” In response, El Nacional ran the word “Censored” in a blank space on its front page. In a show of solidarity, the independent newspaper Tal Cual reprinted the photograph and incurred a similar court ruling. Injunctions on both papers have since been lifted.

      I frankly do not understand why there are so many Chavez lovers here. His misrule has literally meant death to so many Venezuelans.
    •  And our media is free and unbiased? And (8+ / 0-)

      the police didn't target journalists during the Occupy take down?

      At worse, this is kettle calling pot black.

      We really should have our house in order before we pretend to be able to teach others how to be a democracy, cuz I'm not seeing too much of it these days here at home.

    •  CPJ has a board chock full of right wing dipshits. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Christiane Amanpour, Tom Brokaw,  Norman Pearlstine, Dan Rather?

      No wonder they're obsessed with attacking governments that get between media millionaires and a quick buck - and have next to nothing to say about the US jailing those who report war crimes.

      Some folks just believe any damn thing they're told by any group with "Foundation" or "Committee" in their name.

      "Furthermore, if you think this would be the very very last cut ever if we let it happen, you are a very confused little rabbit." cai

      by JesseCW on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 07:02:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep, the Chávez government has placed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      restrictions on how the media can report on events and has been levying fines for their reportage on recent disasters such as water contamination and the humongous oil refinery explosion:

      So it's not so much that papers are kept from being anti-Chávez.  It's more that they simply aren't allowed to report fully on things that are happening.

      However, my opinion is that the biggest threats to the media in Venezuela are the insecurity and rampant corruption.  But I wouldn't single out Venezuela for that since it applies to Mexico as well.

    •  Maybe he treats them with contempt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      because they treat him with contempt.  If I was president and the media pro-actively tried to oust me, I'd be more inclined than not to exercise some undemocratic influence over them as well.

      This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

      by DisNoir36 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:42:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  American media would fawn all over (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino, freerad, JesseCW

    Hugo if he would just put American oil companies back in the drivers seat.

  •  I guess it takes one to know one. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino, mickT, boudi08, JesseCW

    Since our media is corrupt to the bones (not particularly in support of our President, but more directly in support of the wealthy) it's not surprising we accuse Chavez of this.

    Pot, meet kettle.

    A thousand Sharkeys are invading a thousand Shires every day across our country.--James Wells

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:52:54 PM PST

  •  having been to cuba numerous times (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Trial Lawyer Richard, Inoljt

    and experienced first hand and through my family on the island what Chavez proposes for Venezuela.... I am gob-smacked that anyone would want to consider replicating the same nightmare.

    Thats all I got to say on the subject of Chavez.

    •  A good point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mickT, IM

      Having read a lot of Latin American history, I understand where Chávez comes from and why he thinks what he does. And I'm sympathetic with what he wants to do (i.e. helping the poor through socialism).

      But as for his actual effectiveness...I don't think that Chávez has actually helped Venezuela's poor as much as they think he has. He's running an experiment that has been run many times before throughout the twentieth century. And each time the experiment has ended up in failure.

      That Gini coefficient graph I link to in my post is really damning. After six years of Hugo Chávez (at the time of the graph), Venezuela is one of the worst-performing countries in the region in reducing inequality.

      by Inoljt on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 11:45:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Having been to Venezuela before Chavez (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      letsgetreal, Frisbeetarian, IM, Inoljt

      I can understand why the average person would have wanted Chavez.  Clearly though he was a case of 'be careful what you wish for'.  

      The fact is that Venezuela was very poor and the divide between rich and poor was extreme.  You could clearly see it.  In Caracas, a highway divided the two.  The poor lived in small houses made of clay block, often with no windows or doors and minimal electricity.  On the other side the well off lived in air conditioned houses, all very fancy and painted.  Some had fountains and gardens.  The divide was very stark, not just physically but socioeconomically.  In Maracaibo it was the same only the houses of the poor were made out of corrugated metal, not block.  

      Chavez did two things and he's been emulated by Evo Morales among others and even Lula in Brasil to a lesser extent.  He promised to spread the wealth to the poor and to help the native people or give Venezuela back to them.  Venezuela had a lot of foreigners who went there to make money.  To the local people it must have seemed as if they went there to exploit them.  After he took over, there was a sort of revolution or cleansing.  Corporations were taken back by the government and many of these foreign people had to basically flee.  Many in my family and some friends included.  If I was a native I probably would have had the same resentment and felt the same way and voted the same way when someone promised me these things.  I saw it from the other perspective and it wasn't all that pretty.  My cousins had a bakery in Maracaibo and I saw first hand how many couldn't even afford bread while I could eat as much as I wanted right out of the oven.  We drove past scores of people begging so we could get to our fancy restaurants.  My mother's cousin was an ambassador to Venezuela and he lived large while so many didn't.  

      I'm thoroughly convinced that's what so many people outside of Venezuela and so many foreigners hate Chavez while so many natives love him.  I don't know if their lives are better today but I'll tell you it can't be much worse than it was before him.  I personally think Chavez is a dictator, enamored with himself, fashioning himself as the reincarnation of Simon Bolivar.  I don't think he's done quite enough for his people and he's no doubt done very well for his Swiss bank accounts.  I can absolutely understand the animosity for him but at the same time I can COMPLETELY understand why a large segment of his population keep voting for him.      

      This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

      by DisNoir36 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:24:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you happen to remember the name of the highway? (0+ / 0-)

        If you do, which side did the poor live on and which side did the rich live on?

        by Inoljt on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:52:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was long ago. (0+ / 0-)

          I remember it was a main highway and on the mountainside overlooking the highway was the poor side.  i vaguely recall it was the right side were the poorer neighborhoods and left side richer neighborhoods but i dont remember what direction we were going.

          This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

          by DisNoir36 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:38:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm gonna go out on a limb, and I'm gonna guess (0+ / 0-)

      your family probably wasn't working as bonded labor on sugar plantations prior to the revolution.

      "Furthermore, if you think this would be the very very last cut ever if we let it happen, you are a very confused little rabbit." cai

      by JesseCW on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 12:33:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  one of them was executed (0+ / 0-)

        by Batista.  They lived in Mantilla, one of the poorest barrios in Havana.  All are working class and some worked as maids and servants.

        Your comment, while I understand why you might think it, shows that you dont know much about life and attitudes of Cubans on the island today.  Cuba is not socialist, in fact Cuba is (ironically) a plantation run by and for the Castro family.  

        Yes, my family worked on a sugar plantations since they are descendents of African slaves.  None of them were ever rich, they were and are quite poor. Unfortunately they still work on a plantation, only the owner has changed.

  •  Venezuela is still a democracy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IM, Inoljt

    Chavez has done may things to undermine that democracy but the country remains democratic and Chavez is president because he was elected. How can he continue to win if his policies have been such a failure?

    In the minds of the poor he is the first Venezuelen President ever to address their needs. And if you look at what preceded Chavez that would be true.

    Unfortunate that Venezuela got a Huey Long like populist demagogue rather then a democratic leader like Lagos or Bachelet (Chile), Lula (Brazil) or even Néstor Kirchner who delivered Argentina from the Banksters. Chile and Brazil have seen real reductions in poverty, growth in social programs and real economic growth while Venezuela despite it's oil wealth is a basket case. It is unfortunate that in the move in Latin America towards towards popular leftist governments Chavez has squandered the opportunity to build a stable, lasting more equitable political system.

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