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Forging an identity within the Revolution
María Rosa Rodner
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Masters in Applied Anthropology, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Supervisor Dr. Greg Downey.
Disclaimer: I certify that this thesis is entirely my own work except were I have given documented references to the work of others. This thesis has not previously, in any part of whole, been submitted for assessment in any formal course of study. Signed: María Rosa Rodner Date: 04/03/08
Digitally signed by María Rosa Rodner DN: cn=María Rosa Rodner, c=VE, email@example.com Reason: I am the author of this document Date: 2008.09.21 21:01:22 +08'00'
Researching and writing this thesis has been a long journey made possible by the unconditional help of many people whom I would like to acknowledge here: Annabella and Daniel for taking care of Sebastian while I went to my courses at night. I also thank Sebastian for being such a little champion on those days he came to classes with me. The fieldwork for this thesis was possible thanks to the hospitality of Helena, Alex, Wendy and Gerardo. Special acknowledgement goes to Helena, for her care and company during the two months we spent at her house in Caracas. Also I want to thank the abuelitos Briceño for taking care of Sebastian while I did my fieldwork outside of Caracas, and maestra Conchita for accepting him in her classroom. Thanks to my mum for the camera I used for my fieldwork photos. Thank you to Gerardo and Gustavo who put me in contact with the television station coordinators in this study, and also to all the coordinators: María, Jesús, Wendy, Werling, Richard and Haibi, who allowed me to spend time observing, participating and conducting interviews at the community stations they run. To all those who work at TV Caricuao, Camunare Rojo TV and Lara Tve thank you for sharing your stories with me. I am also grateful to my supervisor Greg Downey, MAA administrator Jovan Maud and director Pál Nyiri for their help and patience in guiding me through the steps to writing a thesis.
I would like to dedicate this project in loving memory and admiration of my great-grandmother Bee
President Hugo Chávez’s government has been developing media as a tool to promote the Bolivarian Revolution’s ideals and goals. Within this context many community television stations have been set up in neighbourhoods, barrios and remote rural localities of Venezuela, backed by government financial and technical support. Through participant observation and interviews this project collects the testimonies of the people who have set up and developed three of these community television stations: TV Caricuao, Camuare Rojo TV and Lara Tve. I found that each television channel had its own particular identity and style, dictated by local history, geography and traditions, as well as by the personal motivations and traits of the people who worked at the station. The people at the stations felt identified with many of the ideals promoted by Bolivarian Revolution. They also shared the sense of social justice, interest in adult education and desire to change the social order of the country, that are common sentiments in worldwide alternative media. Although each of the community stations in this study has its own individual identity and agenda, they are still far from working independently from government financial and ideological influences.
Keywords: Venezuela, Community Television, Alternative Media, Bolivarian Revolution, Social Change, TV Caricuao, Camunare Rojo TV, Lara Tve Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
1.Introduction 2.Literature review: Politics, media and Venezuelan society 2.1 History of an unresolved social struggle 2.1.1.Conquest 2.1.2.Independence 2.1.3.Dictatorship 2.1.4.A first endeavor at democracy 2.1.5.The Pacto de Punto Fijo and the end of dictatorship. 2.2.Subjects and spectators of Democracy 2.3.Time for a Revolution 2.3.1.Revolutionizing Politics: communal councils 2.3.2.Revolutionizing the economy: cooperatives 2.3.3.Revolutionizing education and health: missions 2.3.4.Revolutionary media: transforming state television 2.4.Community television from global to local 2.4.1.Conceptualising community television 2.4.2.CONATEL: facilitating community television in Venezuela 3.Data and Discussion 3.1.Methodology 3.1.1.Making contacts 3.1.2.Research approach and methods 3.1.3.Informed consent and participants 3.2.Case studies 3.2.1.TV Caricuao 3.2.2.Camunare Rojo TV 3.2.3.Lara Tve
vii 3.3.The identity and role of community television in Venezuela 3.3.1.Community television as an instrument of social change 3.3.2.Community television and adult education 3.3.3.The community station revolutionary 3.3.4.“What kind of television do we want?” 3.3.5.Carving an identity 3.3.6.How the community sees the channel 3.3.7.Mirroring the community 4.Conclusion Glossary: Venezuelan local terms, Revolutionary terms Acronyms References * Literature References * Internet References * Interviews and Correspondence * Colloquiums and classes Appendices: A. Approved community stations B. Commercial and state TV stations C. Missions D. TV Caricuao (photos) E. Camunare Rojo TV (photos) F. Lara Tve (photos) G. Fieldnotes on El Vegón H. Video
A las 12 de la noche del 28 de mayo de 2007, después de 53 años de trayectoria histórica en Venezuela, RCTV fue cerrada. (At Midnight on May 28, 2007, after 53 years of history in Venezuela, RCTV was closed down) (RCTV, 2007) When I went to do my fieldwork in February 2007, everyone in Caracas was talking about the impending disappearance from the airwaves of Radio Caracas Televisión or RCTV, a national commercial television station. One Saturday afternoon, employees, family and friends of RCTV assembled in the Plaza Francia urging people to sign a petition that was to be sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, stating, among other things, that the closure of the television station was a “threat to the independent exercise of journalism […] and to freedom of speech in general”. i
during the subsequent meeting of the Organization of American States in Panama, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said, “the closure of Radio Caracas TV (RCTV) was ‘undemocratic’ and called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate” (BBC News: June 5, 2007). Not renovating this longstanding commercial television station’s concession to open airwaves could be considered heavy-handed, and unsurprisingly caused public outrage in the country and much external criticism. But RCTV was not an unbiased vehicle for public expression and freedom of speech; it was an active political and social player. Not only in Venezuela, but also in much of Latin America “media systems combined various influences and were deeply shaped by a matrix of power relations that resulted from indigenous political and economic developments” (Waisbord, 2003: 50). Following the installation of a democratic system in 1958, the media in Venezuela did not function as the Fourth Estate, representing the masses, and framing and questioning political issues.iii On the contrary, media companies served as a hegemonic
Introduction binder, legitimising the new political system, its actors and their supporters. All sectors of society were in some way integrated –
partly through the media - and given a stake in the persistence of the new socio-political system (Hallin, 2003). There was no effort to develop a political culture where citizens could participate in building a democratic society other than by voting, and representation was reduced to clientelism.iv Chapter 2 will familiarize readers with the historical and political events that have shaped Venezuela’s social order and political institutions, and how their inadequacy has contributed to social uprisings, and led to the sweeping reforms of President Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, which have received so much media scrutiny and their fair share civil resistance. In chapter 2 I will also address the hegemonic role of Venezuelan media and how television has served politicians and large business owners (‘the Oligarchs,’ as Chávez calls them) as an effective instrument of control without “open authoritarianism” (ibid: 98). Only now that they are no longer partisans with those in government do they continuously question and criticize the political decisions and ideological viewpoint of the state. Chávez’s government is responding by creating its own media. The National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) refused to renew RCTV’s contract to broadcast publicly on channel 2 because it considered that a lot of its programs did not uphold standards expected of open television, added to the channel’s relentless criticism of Chávez and obvious support for the opposition leaders (Libro Blanco sobre RCTV, 2007). Arnelle Carolina Uzcátegui, Technical Support Manager at CONATEL, told me during an interview in March 2007 that the problem in Caracas is that the spectrum is saturated. She said that this is one of the reasons why CONATEL is not renewing RCTV’s concession: they need the broadcast space for other channels that can provide “better” programs (than RCTV). To
Introduction date, channel 2 now broadcasts TVes or Fundación Televisora
Venezolana Social (Social Venezuelan Television- Station Foundation), a new channel launched by the state, which, according to the government provides a more educational and cultural channel of entertainment. Tves is the second national broadcast channel set up by the current government. When Chávez first took over the presidency in 1998, he saw in the dilapidated state television station, VTV (Venezolana de Televisión), the promotional instrument through which he was going to talk to the masses about his political program for the country: The Bolivarian Revolution. Ever since, Chávez has been doing this personally through his Sunday program Aló Presidente (Hello President), and indirectly through the other informative and opinion programs broadcasted on VTV.v In 2003, the Chávez government introduced another state channel: Vive TV (Visión Venezuela). This station works in close collaboration with community channels, broadcasting programs made by them and by independent filmmakers. Vive TV is also a training platform for community television staff, teaching them the technical and production skills of television making. This partnership between Vive and community channels has been beneficial to the latter, but also constrains their creativity because they have to adjust to Vive’s standards. Community radio and television stations are being set up in remote rural towns, within barrios (poor neighbourhoods), and in places where people are organized as a collaborative entity or fundación (foundation), and can demonstrate that a common identity binds them. Government support of community stations does not end with training, equipment and bandwidth concession. Support is ongoing, as practically all are financially viable because of government advertising. Uzcátegui said that this level of state support for community television is unprecedented elsewhere in the
world. Since 2002, CONATEL has supported the foundation of twentyfive community television stations, and there are still more petitions pending approval (Appendix A). Notwithstanding government help, community television has an ambivalent association with the Revolution. Many of those involved in community television identify with aspects of ‘the Bolivarian Process,’ but at the same time they strive for the individuality and independence of their stations. The rhetoric of people power and socialism promoted by the Revolution supports the need for community television as a platform through which citizens can be heard and participate in the affairs of the country. But because community stations broadcast on a very small scale, 6 MHz bandwidth, and as yet do not command a great audience, even within their neighbourhoods, they have been overshadowed by all the interest surrounding the mainstream media. Most people have never heard of any of the community channels - with the exception of Catia Tve - and assume they produce low quality television or are an appendage of state television. There has been very little written about these stations academically or by journalists in the mainstream media, or at least this information is not widely available. Is the local identity of Venezuelan community television stations eclipsed by the support they get from the “Bolivarian” government? In this project I study how three community stations develop their individual images within the Revolutionary framework. The driving force behind the community stations is the staffs commitment, particularly that of the coordinators. And it is through their personal interpretations of locality and its social needs, and their audiovisual knowledge and esthetical preferences that each channel’s image is forged. The first community channel I visited during my field research was TV Caricuao, located in a dormitory neighbourhood west of Caracas. Caricuao has developed certain cultural idiosyncrasies, for
example in music, that set it apart from Caracas. The community has a well-known “underground” or pirate radio station, called Radio Perola, as well as its own community television station, which has a twenty-five-year history in independent video production. I then travelled to a small country town, Camunare Rojo. The word Rojo (red) is part of its name because Camunare was a communist hideout in the 1960s when the guerrilleros (guerrillas) lived up in the sierra (mountains). Camunare Rojo is also a farming village. Its television station arose to defend peasants in clashes against landowners. The third channel I visited was Lara Tve in Barquisimeto, a city in the west of Venezuela. Lara Tve’s signature style is interaction with the public, as practically all programs are broadcast live from the studio, so audiences can phone in and participate with their comments. Their focus is on music and children’s participation in production. During my fieldwork I observed and interviewed the people who worked and volunteered at each of the three stations. Through this research I learnt how the coordinators, producers and operative staff work to make their station representative of and useful to their community. In this thesis I also talk about how they relate to and work with the Bolivarian Revolution: what are the causes, motives, opportunities and necessities that bring these people to set up a television station for their community within the Revolutionary framework.
2.Literature review Politics, media and Venezuelan society 2.1.History of an unresolved social struggle
A long time has gone by since Venezuela broke from the colonial domination model and set up the republic, however it seems like we still have not found a path that will lead us to the construction of a stable and autonomous cultural and political entity. (Rodríguez, 2004: 260) 2.1.1.Conquest In 1498 when Christopher Columbus set foot on what is now known as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, many native groups or “Indians” inhabited the land.vi Each had its own language, social structures and rules, myth-historical beliefs, and subsistence methods. Although there are instances in Venezuelan history when some indigenous groups allied with the Spaniards, for the most part Indians were persecuted, murdered, enslaved or driven off the land, and vast numbers died from diseases like smallpox. Indian traditions and rules did not get to play a major role in forming Venezuela’s political, economic, social and religious structures. Presently, Venezuela has a relatively small indigenousidentified population – 1.5 percent of the total population (ULA, Not dated) or around 300,000 people belonging to 25 ethnic groups (Monsonyi, Not dated) – compared to other countries in Latin America, but many Venezuelans are part Indian or mestizo (of mixed Amerindian, African and European ethnic descent). 2.1.2.Independence Towards the end of the 18th century, dissent against Spanish colonial rule grew throughout the Americas as local Indian and peasant rebellions added strength to the efforts of rich criollo (Latin American-born Europeans) landowners who wanted to free
Literature Review themselves from the trade restrictions imposed by the motherland.
After a long armed struggle, Simón Bolívar led his troops to victory in the Battle of Carabobo on June 24, 1821. Known as the Libertador (liberator) for freeing, not only Venezuela, but also Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Bolivia from Spanish domination, Simón Bolívar dreamed of forming a united Latin American society (CastroKlarén, 2003). His vision was short-lived as bickering caudillos (charismatic politico-military strongmen) split the integrated State of La Gran Colombia to distribute power among themselves.vii Buried but not forgotten, Bolívar’s dream has now been revived; to unite the peoples of Latin America is one of the main goals of the Bolivarian Revolution (Arreaza, 2004; Cancillería, MINCI, 2007). Bolívar is alleged to have uttered on his deathbed: “America is ungovernable […] Those in the service of the revolution have ploughed the sea” (Gott, 2005: 101). Remembering these words, one wonders if this is a reasonable to dream to pursue. In Bolívar’s time there was no mass media. El Correo del Orinoco (The Orinoco Post) was a newspaper set up by Bolívar and others to support the independence movement, but its public was limited to the few who could read, as most of the population at that time was illiterate. Had Bolívar counted on the media power of today’s Bolivarian Revolution, would have he seen his dream come true? 2.1.3.Dictatorship Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, Venezuela was ruled by a series of caudillo dictators. During this period, slavery was legally abolished, but an egalitarian society was far from achieved. Criollos and peninsulares (Spanish born) were still the ruling class. The African-American descendants of slaves, Native Americans, and mestizos had little political freedom or access to education. Few owned their own land, and many had to resort to working on latifundia or fincas (plantations) for very little pay.
Fragmented caudillismo was finally eradicated at the beginning of the 20th century by the military strength of Venezuela’s longeststanding dictator, Juan Vicente Gómez. A mestizo from humble origins in the Andes, Gómez’s power lay in a strong army and ruthlessness towards his adversaries (Lieuwen, 1961). The discovery of oil attracted foreign interest to the country and enriched Gómez and his government. Opinions vary on Gómez’s contributions to Venezuela and its people. According to Lieuwen, Living standards were miserably low; there was no government housing; health and education were neglected despite the opulence of the state; agriculture and industry were prostrate. (Lieuwen 1961: 48) In contrast, Derham (2002: 276) says that there are alternative views in which “Gómez can be seen as more of a nationalist and moderniser rather than the primitive, backward barbarian of conventional interpretations”. Gómez held power for 25 years, until his death from natural causes in 1935. His successors were similar in their dictatorial style of governing; nevertheless political parties began to take shape in Venezuela.
2.1.4.A first endeavour at democracy In the 40s and 50s the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas provided the grounds for a new breed of political leaders intent on paving the way for democracy. In spite of their democratic ideals, however, these party leaders decided to collaborate with a group of junior officers in staging a coup, which succeeded in ousting President Isaías Medina Angarita from power. A temporary joint military-civilian government was set up. Elections followed in two years, and the AD or Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) candidate, Rómulo Gallegos, won the presidency. During its first three years in power, AD swept the country with political and social reforms, many designed to improve labour conditions, health care and education for the general population.
According to Derham (2003), however, AD was inefficient in bringing about many of its programmatic reforms, and in some cases caused more damage and chaos than improvement. In October 1948, AD introduced an Agrarian Reform Law aimed at expropriating vast areas of idle land monopolized by rich landholders and putting them in the hands of the propertyless rural population for cultivation (Lieuwen, 1961). viii The proposed agrarian reforms earned AD the animosity of landowners. AD also alienated their former military and political allies by excluding them from participation in the new government. Their administration ended with the army seizing power once again and the installation of a ten-year dictatorship under the heavy hand of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The controversial Agrarian Reform Law was not implemented. 2.1.5.The Pacto de Punto Fijo and the end of dictatorship Aside from persecuting his political enemies, Pérez Jiménez is remembered for spectacular construction of obras (monumental infrastructure). According to Lieuwen (1961) most of this construction was focused on making a show-place of Caracas, the capital city, and created an imbalance in the development of the country as a whole. However, this focus did not change when AD returned to power in 1958. During the forty years AD and their contender COPEI (Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente) shared political power, little was done to develop the rural areas of the country. Instead, Venezuela developed as a país rentista, a country living off oil revenues. On January 23, 1958, Pérez Jiménez fled the country after joint military and civilian attacks forced him to resign. Following an interim government, elections were called, and the AD candidate, Rómulo Betancourt, assumed the presidency. To avoid succumbing again to military dictatorship, the party leaders of AD, COPEI and URD (Unión Republicana Democrática) set up the Pacto de Punto Fijo,
a gentlemen’s agreement about how political parties and the elections should be managed. ix Nevertheless, instead of serving democracy and political diversity, through the Pacto de Punto Fijo governance was shifted every election or so mainly between the two dominant political parties, AD and COPEI (Buxton, 2001; Gott, 2005; McCaughan, 2004). Furthermore, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) was actually excluded from the pact, despite its help in overthrowing the preceding dictatorship and significant popular and union support (Derham, 2000). “The philosophy of Communism is not compatible with the development of Venezuela,” Betancourt explained (Lieuwen, 1961: 105). From then on elections dutifully took place every five years, with an array of candidates to choose from, plenty of campaigning, banners, speeches and propaganda in the media, but in actual fact public participation was minimal and political power remained in the hands of few, those few who had set up the original parties of AD and COPEI. Their governments enjoyed the benefits of soaring oil prices between 1973 and 1983; and these benefits trickled down to the general population in the form of inadequate public services and welfare programs. However, when oil prices dropped, dramatic political changes accompanied economic decline, “the most profound being the erosion of support for the political regime itself” (Myers, 2003: 188). In 1989 facing a large international debt, President Carlos Andrés Pérez (AD) instated economic austerity measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund. Riots and looting broke out in Caracas following a rise in public transport fares. This upheaval was crushed by the armed forces, and hundreds were killed. In 1992, President Pérez had to deal with two coup attempts; the first on the 4th of February had Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frías amongst its leaders. The second took place in November and was led by navy Admiral Hernán Gruber. Both failed, and the culprits were imprisoned. However, Chávez had left an impression on all
Venezuelans. After his capture, Chávez was granted a few minutes on television to tell his troops to withdraw. In this speech he said: …For the moment [por ahora] the objectives that we had set ourselves have not been achieved […] I alone shoulder the responsibility for this Bolivarian military uprising…x (Chávez quoted and translated in Gott, 2005: 67) He may have failed then, but he would be back within the decade. On December 4, 1998, Hugo Chávez Frías, former Lieutenant Colonel of the national parachute brigade and ex-coup leader, was democratically elected as the new president of Venezuela. His victory marked the end of the Pacto de Punto Fijo and with it an era in Venezuelan politics.
2.2.Subjects and spectators of Democracy
Similar to other Latin American nations, Venezuela had adopted the institutions and practices of democracy without developing a political culture and social structure to support them (Wiarda, 2005); therefore, politics was reduced to a show of empty and absurd rituals (Rodríguez, 2004). This spectacle of the triumph, development, decline and demise of political parties in Venezuela has been captured throughout the past forty years by national television. Television made its debut in Venezuela in 1952 on channel 5, with the state run Televisora Nacional YVKA-TV (TVN-5). The following year the first commercial station, Televisa YVLV-TV, aired on channel 4 (Herrera, Valdespino and Vivas, not dated), but went bankrupt in less than a decade. In 1960 President Rómulo Betancourt asked wealthy businessman Don Diego Cisneros to buy Televisa in order to turn it into a profitable business, and use this media to guide public opinion in favour of the nascent democracy (Venevisión, 2005). And that is what he did. Cisneros bought Televisa and changed its name to Venevisión; it is now the country’s longest standing commercial television station, since its archrival RCTV (former
Literature Review channel 2) has been taken off the air. RCTV, owned by the 1BC conglomerate had been on open air since 1953, but was reduced to
broadcast on cable television since losing its concession in May 2007. For decades Venevisión and RCTV had been battling for ratings. Both started off in association with US broadcasters; 42 percent of Venevisión was in the hands of ABC (American Broadcasting Company), and NBC (The National Broadcasting Company) held a 20 percent share of RCTV, in spite of a national regulation (Reglamento de Radiocomunicaciones) that stated that only Venezuelans could exploit television signals (Herrera et al). Both turned into very profitable businesses, and their holding groups 1BC and ODC, held, and still hold, stakes in many areas, including other forms of media, technology, and consumption goods. These holdings lock national media with the consumption economy in a way that goes beyond advertising funding. These complex networks of holdings have led to accusations of oligarchy against the private media in Venezuela. Both channels focused on the commercial value of television, broadcasting imported and local entertainment programs. GumucioDagrón argues that Most private national television channels are no more than an echo of multinational networks [… providing a] unilateral vision of the world, with contents that are homogenised. (Gumucio-Dagrón, 2003: 18) Audiences are spectators, fed entertainment and news, models and ideas. These media do not help to produce a public sphere with an opinion, that is “people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state” (Habermas, 1962: 176), questioning, challenging or even affirming the affairs of the state and the status quo. Waisbord considers that media structures in South America can be antidemocratic in character, tilting in favour of concentrated business and political elites, reflecting a legacy of power inequalities, and are therefore unlikely to redress, let alone
Literature Review restructure the “wide disparities in access to the means of public expression” (Waisbord, 2000:60). (See Appendix B for an outline of Venezuela’s private and state national television broadcasters)
2.3.Time for a Revolution
Many people voted for Chávez in 1998 as the sole alternative to the bi-partisan Punto Fijo clique, and as way of punishing AD and COPEI for their inefficiency and corruption. But they soon realized that they had acquired much more than what they had bargained for, changes and reforms: yes… but a revolution? Not everyone’s choice, especially if your lifestyle does not require any revolutionizing. Social Revolutions are massive progressive processes confronting from below the whole arrangement of power structures. If successful, they involve profound changes in class relations on social, economic and political terrains, as well in the material and symbolic dimensions of individual and collective life. (Vilas, 2003: 95) 2.3.1.Revolutionizing Politics: communal councils During the reign of the IV República, affiliation to political parties was usually associated with clientelism or securing a job in public service, rather than a way to participate in the construction of society and public policy.xi The Chávez government is attempting to reduce or eliminate the need for public institutions and political parties. On the one hand he is reducing pluralistic representation by trying to eliminate political parties, as he has called those affiliated to him (MVR, PCV, MAS) to all join up as one (partido único), and thereby remove their individual identities and representatives. But at the same time, never before has there been a greater call for the general population to engage in a political movement: La Revolución Bolivarian or The Bolivarian Revolution (albeit the only option promoted by the government).
Literature Review The Chávez government is encouraging people to create consejos comunales (community or communal councils) as an alternative to political parties. Through these councils, made up by community members, people are given the power to formulate, execute, control and evaluate public policies (Consejos Comunales, 2007). They are also meant to take over from, or for now, run parallel to Asociaciones de Vecinos (Neighbourhood Associations), and some public organization institutions, like Alcaldías (Councils). Some of those who are less than enthusiastic about the consejos comunales, like council representative of Chacao, Emilio Graterón (colloquium, 2007), fear that they are a mechanism for centralizing
state control over society, and describe the process as socialism with a totalitarian vocation, based on the dictatorship of the commune. Pragmatic critics like Mascarreño (colloquium, 2007) argue that a large city like Caracas, with around 4 million inhabitants, needs institutionalised mechanisms in order for it to function correctly and provide continuity to political and structural projects (Graterón and Mascarreño presentations at the colloquium El Poder Popular y la transformación de Caracas, 2007). Eliminating the traditional institutions of socio-political organization is still very far off on the horizon from any political standpoint, as consejos comunales are still just sorting out their teething problems. “The work of the communities is not easy, this process is not easy,” said a consejo comunal organizer in Caricuao. He explained that they have to go door-to-door inviting people to meetings. They have to figure out what needs fixing, damaged pipes or roads, for example, and then find several cooperatives and have them bid for the work. Then consejo members must submit the winning budget to the government in order to get the money to pay the cooperative to have the job done. Furthermore, they must supervise the work to make sure it is done conclusively. He explained
that local communal councils also have to pinpoint and resolve social issues, like neglected children or elderly people. Prior to the consejos comunales, in 2000 the Chávez government had dabbled with the círculos bolivarianos (bolivarian circles). Similar to the consejos comunales, members of the bolivarian circles were to serve and support the interests of their community, facilitating access to the government’s poverty alleviation programs, as well as campaigning for the president in elections (Hawkins and Hansen, 2006). The subtle disappearance of the bolivarian circles may be because they had accomplished their main objective of organizing mass support for Chávez during his temporary removal from power in April 2002, the 2004 referendum and 2006 election. Also they had negative connotations attached to them, like clientelism and violence, and were called “circles of terror” by some members of the opposition. Very little empirical work has been done to determine their contribution to Venezuelan civil society (ibid). This trial and error approach, along with the indefinite timelines and ambiguous goals of some government projects (plans, missions, círculos bolivarianos, consejos comunales) underlines the experimental nature of the ‘Bolivarian Process,’ which to some means an opportunity to participate and to others uncertainty and chaos. 2.3.2.Revolutionizing the economy: cooperatives “Latin America is the region with the highest levels of inequality in the world” (De Ferranti, Perry, Ferreira and Walton, 2004: 53). In a study compiled by De Ferranti and colleagues for the World Bank, the authors conclude that, whether it be by measuring household income, or consumption, or expenditure, inequality in Latin American has been greater than in the rest of the world, at least since statistics became available after World War II. There are no signs that this gap has narrowed over time, and levels of inequality in Latin America have persisted despite changes in the financial, social, and political
scenarios; ranging from economic booms from the discovery of oil, to public sector interventions, dictatorships and democracies. Since Chávez began his Revolutionary Process in Venezuela, some have argued that living standards have plummeted. Unemployment has risen because many multinational companies have moved their operations elsewhere due to the political uncertainty of the country, and a lot of small and medium-sized local businesses went bankrupt following a four-month-long national strike called on by the opposition in 2002 and 2003 (Alvarado, 2004). Figures for unemployment in Venezuela vary from 7.7 percent in 1998 (Ferranti et al, 2004) to around 13 percent between 1999 and 2004 (Armas, in Alvardo, 2004). It has generally been quite difficult to make accurate estimates for unemployment because around half the working population is engaged in informal labour activities, ranging from domestic cleaners, construction workers, and street vendors (known as buhoneros), to skilled workers, such as electricians and artisans. This is not a new phenomenon and has been going on for decades. It is difficult to tell if periodic increases in the informal economy are due to a lack of formal jobs, or have been made more acute by an influx of migrants from neighbouring countries. Although informal work provides immediate necessities like food and transport, it places a burden on public services, because most of these workers are not included in the taxation and social security system, yet they still rely on public health and schooling for themselves and their families, as their incomes are usually low and unreliable. One of the methods the Chávez government is using to tackle the persistent unemployment problem is the promotion and institutionalisation of cooperatives. SUNACOOP, Superintendencia Nacional de Cooperativas (National Superintendent of Cooperatives), defines the “cooperative” as:
A production, obtainment, consumer or credit entity, whose members participate freely and democratically in search of a common economic and social objective, where the participation of each associate is determined by work input towards the common objective and not by the amount of money put in. (SUNACOOP, 2007) Cooperatives are inspired by early 19th century utopian socialist ideals from England and France of self-managed organizations that rose in contestation to the grim livelihood of factory workers during the Industrial Revolution. Through history cooperativism has had successes and limitations in the relief of poverty, nevertheless it is still one obvious choice for any system which is attempting to be more inclusive than capitalism, which accepts poverty as the natural outcome of the competitive process among unequals (Schirber, 1945). Cooperatives in Venezuela go back more than 100 years, but their recent revival follows structural and legal reforms decreed in the 2001 Special Law of Cooperative Associations set out to control, promote and protect the cooperatives.xii SONACOOP (2007) categorizes Venezuelan cooperatives into: goods and services production cooperatives, goods and services consumption cooperatives (shops and stalls), savings and credit cooperatives, and mixed cooperatives (any combination of the above). During my fieldwork, I visited the agricultural Cooperativa Mixta Aracal, in Yaracuy. Set up on land expropriated from sugar cane plantations, Aracal is an ambitious cooperative scheme that aims to include a laboratory, fish farms and organic gardens, and has begun to farm black beans, one of Venezuela’s traditional staple foods, and to rear some cattle. Aracal’s progress - from the moment farmers and peasants seized the land, to their organization into a cooperative, and their production and farming activities - has been closely documented by the community television station Camunare Rojo TV.
Literature Review 2.3.3.Revolutionizing education and health: missions Venezuela as a nation has yet to devise a system that will
guarantee all citizens access to appropriate healthcare, education and food. As city populations grew over the past century, many public schools and hospitals were built, and additional programs launched to solve acute deficiencies, like the ACUDE literacy program of the 80s and the beca alimentaria (food grant) in the 1990s, to mention a couple. But the public institutions have long been beyond capacity and the assistance programs faded away over time. About four years into its term, the current government launched the misiones (or missions) as its answer to the population’s health, sustenance and education needs. The missions are mid- to long-term programs which do not only focus on improving an individual’s living standards through the particular educational, health or other program they impart, but are meant to encourage social and political inclusion by providing a venue in which people can participate in the construction of the citizenry (Rodríguez, in Alvarado, 2004). The adult education and practical development programs - like Misión Ribas, Robinson, Sucre and Vuelvan Caras – are meant to go beyond academic and technical training, to teach participants about the government's socialeconomy alternative and encourage their integration. Community television works in close collaboration with many of the missions in a mutually supportive relationship; for example, in the case of TV Caricuao, some missions share the site with the station. One evening when I was leaving TV Caricuao, I walked down to the Metro (train station) with some students who had just come out of class. Most people were over 35, and they seemed to be very enthusiastic and happy with what they had been learning at the mission. This example attests to the fact that the missions sometimes have been successful in improving people's self-worth and outlook, a positive step towards strengthening social capital and encouraging
Literature Review the participation of previously excluded segments of the population into what is called the "tertiary sector" of the economy, that is, the social economy rather than the primary private and the secondary public sectors (García, in Alvarado 2004). The tertiary sector is a "space" - not exclusively- for those who previously were on the fringes of society and economic production, and it is meant to
organise people into more formal production (cooperatives) and social (community councils) networks, this way not only improving their livelihood but also converting them into accountable citizens. The missions are the first stepping-stone. Some missions not only provide free education, but students are given a monthly grant in order to help them with their studies. Misión Zamora organizes peasants into collective farms (fundos), presents them with deeds to the land, agricultural machinery, and seeds as well as technical training (Alvarado 2004, and interview at Aracal, 2007). “There is a lot of money floating around,” Alvarado warns (2004: 224), and fund allocation is not always clear; without details it is difficult to evaluate financial management, which in turn obstructs fiscal discipline (Armas, in Alvarado 2004). Other critics (Guedel and Maingon, in Alvarado, 2004) say that mission programs are sometimes duplicated due to lack of coordination and specific objectives, resulting in institutional mismanagement, misplacement of funds and loss of a global focus on the social matter. Aside from official government statements on their achievements, the effectiveness of the missions on improving health, employment, productivity and education have not been properly evaluated. Alvarado (2004) suggests that although the missions aim to be development programs, they are still very much working on an assistance level, solving basic needs like education, health and food supply to poorer sectors of society. In Venezuela, as well as much of Latin America, this is a trap that socio-political structures fall into: geared towards solving crises, they are rarely able to evolve from
Literature Review temporary emergency structures into permanent solutions (Rodríguez, 2004).
(Appendix C gives a brief description of all of the missions mentioned in this thesis and others of interest) 2.3.4.Revolutionary media: transforming state television The role of the media in the Bolivarian revolutionary transformation is to spread the word, promoting the Revolution’s ideals and presenting the achievements of the missions and other government projects. Throughout its lifespan, Venezuelan state television - aired on channel 5 (Televisora Nacional) and channel 8 (VTV) - was basically a promotional tool for government projects, although not as explicitly as in the current climate. It has also attempted to provide more educational and folkloric programs than its commercial counterparts. Yet previous governments invested very little money and thought into the state channels, and they always seemed to have old documentaries with a washed-out look, among other not very exciting images, making it impossible to compete with the private channels. Nevertheless, state television was the only alternative to commercial television until the advent of satellite and cable. State funded television in Venezuela has never functioned as "public access television", understood as a relatively autonomous channel, in which members of civil society can influence program selection and even sometimes have a hand in production. A good example of public access television can be seen in Australia's SBS. In 2003 the government launched Vive TV under the guiding hand of Blanca Eekhout, the former director of one of Venezuela's pioneering community television channels, Catia Tve. Personnel from Vive have trained many community television producers, and in return Vive gets to air the programs produced at the community television stations. On the one hand, it allows communities to be seen and heard on a national and international level: Vive can be seen
around Venezuela through the local UHF channels and on cable, and worldwide via the Internet (Vive TV, not dated). On the other hand, Vive puts pressure on community channels to comply with certain content and schedule expectations and robs them of the intimacy of local television.
2.4.Community television from global to local
2.4.1.Conceptualising community television What community television “does best is listen to the community heartbeat and the pulse of daily life” (Gumucio-Dagrón, 2003: 18). Every community television station is as unique as the community it serves. There is no right or wrong way of making community television, no prescribed styles; by definition it is experimental not professional, a creative tool in the hands of those who have a message to share with others. Community television is a world-wide grassroots libertarian movement dedicated to the principles of free expression, social justice and participatory democracy, and committed to enhancing collective memory and community relations, organization and solidarity (Gumucio-Dagrón, 2003; Howley, 2005). Community television broadcasts events and issues that mainly concern a group of people who share some form of identity. The community itself can be defined by geographical boundaries as well as in terms of common interests or lifestyle, or by ethnical, idiomatic, religious or cultural groupings (Rennie, 2006). But the bottom line is a sense of belonging and commitment. Nevertheless it is important that members perceive that community projects will in some way enrich their lives in order to secure their ongoing commitment and interest, as successful long-term cooperation cannot rely solely on socialistic or other ideological motivation (Levi and Litwin, 1986). Community television is a high maintenance project as it must
Literature Review produce and broadcast on a regular basis to be up to date with community issues and keep the public tuned in and interested. Community media is usually run on a not-for profit basis, and
any income generated is for the upkeep and continuity of the station. Most people who participate in community media (producers, writers and presenters) are volunteers, and if there are any paid employees, they are usually in charge of technical operative tasks. Community television in comparison to its media counterparts - community radio and independent video - has much higher production, infrastructure, broadcasting, organization and material costs. The motivation to set up and participate in community television is determined by the particular circumstances of each community. When I asked the people in Venezuela why they set up the station, several cited the April 11th 2002 civil uprising or coup d'état (people define the event depending upon political affiliation), in which around nineteen people died and sixty were injured, as a catalyst that incited them to set up a television station through which they could capture political and social struggles from another point of view (compared to that of state or commercial television). But they each also had their particular motivation: “we wanted better programs for our children” (Lara Tve), “we wanted to show the struggle of farmers” (Camunare Rojo TV). 2.4.2.CONATEL: facilitating community television in Venezuela The Coordinadora Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (National Telecomunicactions Coordinator) or CONATEL is the state agency in charge of granting airwave space and regulating program content on open-air television. Commercial, state and community television and radio are all under its jurisdiction. According to article 200 of the Ley Orgánica de Telecomunicaciones (Organic Law of Telecommunications) published in 2000, amongst its duties CONATEL must promote the existence of not-for-profit public service
Literature Review community radio and television stations as a means for organized communities to communicate. Prior to the 1999 reform to the Venezuelan Constitution, community media was not regulated, and therefore the few
community television stations that existed - Catia Tve and Tv Rubio – were, in practice, broadcasting illegally (Podur, 2005). Catia Tve's history dates back to the 1960s when it started up as the CineClub, a group of neighbours from the west end of Caracas gathering to watch films in people's homes. Through these meetings it developed into a community organization, where people not only got together to see the films but also to chat about community issues. In the early 1990s, Catia Tve acquired a video camera and began recording community events and visits from politicians in order to hold them accountable to their promises. They took the step from independent video to television broadcasting when Tv Rubio helped them set up an antenna (ibid). Tv Rubio is located in a small town in Táchira State in the Andes and was started up by a group of high school students in 1996, promoting local news, cultural and sports events (Hernández, 1999). Some universities also had their own television stations, but their programs were for the student population and did not broadcast outside of the university. Under the new legislation universities cannot operate "community" stations because these can only be set up by a community foundation (fundación comunitaria), whose members must all live in the broadcasting area of the station and join as individuals (personas naturales) and not as members of a legal entity or institution (personas jurídicas). The Open Broadcast Not-for-profit Public Service Community Radio and Television Regulation (Reglamento de Radiodifusión Sonora y Televisión Abierta comunitarias de Servicio Público, sin fines de lucro, 2001) lays out the laws for community foundations and their radio or television stations. There must be particular historical,
geographical, cultural and traditional characteristics that identify the inhabitants of the community (article 2). Community inhabitants can set up a foundation for the community, which must have the exclusive objective of ensuring free and plural communication amongst the members of the community (article 2). The station can receive income through donations or from advertising by local businesses and businesses from other communities (article 30), and council and other government advertising, but may not receive financial support from open-air television operators (article 19). CONATEL assesses the technical feasibility of setting up a station in a particular community, and if they approve the petition, they also provide technical support to set up the station, and MINCI (Communications and Information Ministry) provides the equipment (antenna). Arnell Uzcátegui (interview, 2007) told me that now CONATEL is also evaluating the community's social aspects when considering their petition to set up a television station. They are looking to see if the community is organized, if it has a communal council, and whom are the people participating. The station's coordinators and producers decide on program style and themes, but these must follow certain parameters, like having educational, cultural or informative value and benefiting the development of the community (article 26). CONATEL periodically evaluates television programming, ensuring content complies with the parameters mentioned above, and that stations are broadcasting a 70% quota of community programs each day (article 28). Because community television in Venezuela is in its early stages, this quota can be hard to fulfil. Programs are rerun, or some channels choose to rebroadcast the national state channels Vive TV or VTV, but this should not surpass 2% percent of total programming (article 32). Although article 26 states that stations should “absolutely abstain from transmitting partisan or proselytising messages of any nature”, the fact that they rebroadcast the government television signal seems
Literature Review at odds with this because many programs are clearly supportive of Chávez and his political views. Article 26 also says that community
media should aim to integrate and support community development, indiscriminately of “political beliefs, age, race, sex, creed, social condition or any other condition.” It is early days yet, and most stations are still building their identity and working on operating efficiently. Financial independence is still a long way ahead. Uzcátegui was only able to give me examples of a couple of community radio stations – Radio Llovizna and Radio Unare – that are self-sustained. CONATEL has provided community foundations with the legal, technical and operational bearings they must follow to set up their television stations, it is then up to the members of the community to make it theirs: develop a sense ownership of and responsibility for the channel.
3.Data and Discussion 3.1.Methodology
3.1.1.Making contacts I started off on this project not knowing what to expect once I arrived in Venezuela, as I was not sure how closely what I had been able to learn through cyberspace reflected what actually existed in the tangible world across the oceans. Furthermore, only two television stations had replied to my email asking about their work and explaining my interest in visiting them. One of them, Tve Apure, was still in the “project” stage, and the other was actually an independent video production collective (colectivo) called Voces Urgentes. This turned out to be one of my most fruitful contacts. Gerardo Rojas is part of Voces Urgentes, a group intent on recording and promoting popular participation and social change through alternative media. The group runs three community radio stations in Barquisimeto, and also produces videos and publishes articles on Internet (Voces Urgentes blogspot, not dated; Colectivo Ana Soto, 2002). Gerardo wrote back saying he would be happy to help. When I called him upon my arrival in Caracas, he put me in contact with the coordinators of Camunare Rojo TV and Lara Tve community television stations, and he was kind enough to let me stay at his house with his family during my visit to Barquisimeto. I got in touch with TV Caricuao through my son’s uncle, a sociologist who had met some of the team from this community station while working on a project to clean up El Guaire River, in Caracas. I also organized an interview at CONATEL. 3.1.2.Research approach and methods I was interested in combining my anthropology research project with media because I am a social communicator (journalist) graduated from a university in Caracas and I had worked for several years in various areas of the industry. At the same time I wanted to
Data focus my research on the political and social changes that are happening in Venezuela. So community television was an obvious
choice as it combined politics, society and media, as well as allowing research to be conducted on a grassroots level, using ethnographic methods like observation, participant-observation and open-ended interviewing. My media background allowed me greater immersion as a participant-observer. I only recorded one interview and a couple of classes because the digital voice recorder was too intrusive, as many felt uneasy having their testimonies recorded. In most cases I just jotted down fieldnotes as I conversed with people, everyone seemed comfortable with this. The interviews were opened-ended, and I would usually start up the conversation by asking the person how he or she became involved with the community television station, and my subjects would take it from there. These conversations inspired me to focus my research on how community television stations create their individual identities within the Revolution. As Whyte (1984, in May 1997: 143) puts it: Observation guides us to some of the important questions we want to ask the respondent, and interviewing helps us to interpret the significance of what we are observing. So what was I observing? The age, background and family circumstances of the different people working at the television stations; how they dressed (lots of red shirts with the guys); attitudes towards schedules, mistakes, decision making, and roles and hierarchies; the general atmosphere of the channels; and how people related to each other depending on all these circumstances. Based on these observations, I directed my questions to find out what expectations they had from working at the station and their level of commitment and involvement. I only pressed coordinators with questions regarding the political stance of the channel, not the general staff. But mostly I just let people tell their stories.
28 Because my stay at each of the stations was brief (from four to
ten days), I had to rely on my background as a “native anthropologist” (I am originally from Caracas) and social communicator to give me added insight and skills, and help me piece together all the information. Participation opportunities came spontaneously. I got to work as camerawoman on one occasion for the producers of Por Dentro y Por Fuera at TV Caricuao. I was also a guest on the children’s program Tiempo de Aventura on Lara Tve. Before the show I had been asking the young hosts about their involvement in Lara Tve; so when they saw me “hanging around” the studio (observing people at work), they invited me to participate. This was a new and testing experience for me, as most of Lara Tve’s programs are aired live. The hosts did not just ask about my visit to the channel, but also my views on people with Downs Syndrome (a subject that I know very little on), because it was World Downs Syndrome Day (March 21). Through these and other experiences I was able to engage in some of the same activities, or at least be as close as possible to the actions of others, to consider myself a participant-observer and gain some insight into their world. 3.1.3.On informed consent and participants All those people whom I interviewed were properly informed of the nature and purpose of the study I was conducting before they put forward any information. Either they already knew about my project from their colleagues and friends, or if they did not, I explained it to them as a way of introducing myself. Certainly it was helpful that the media is a public domain, and therefore most information related to it is already public in nature. I only asked the channel coordinators and the Technical Support Manager at CONATEL to sign the consent forms, thereby providing them an “official” document they could use to get in touch with the university or me if they chose.
29 Although Fluehr-Lobban (1998) says social research nowadays
favours the terms “collaborators” and “participants” instead of “informants” and “subjects”, I have chosen to use the words: “contact,” “participant,” “subject” or “colleague,” depending on the sort of rapport or relationship I had with each individual or group. Although many people were very helpful, I would not hold them responsible as “collaborators” to anything I might interpret or write in this thesis.
3.2.1 TV Caricuao (photos Appendix D) Motto: “Communitarian, participative and alternative” Location: former UNESR building, Zona A, Caricuao, outskirts of Caracas. Broadcasting area: Caricuao, Las Adjuntas, Ruíz Pineda, Los Teques. Frequency: Channel 66 UHF. Founding year: initial project 1978. Broadcasting since December 2005. Focus: Strengthen commonality by working as an educational, informative and entertaining audiovisual communication link. Compile and safeguard historical footage of the community. Coordinators: María de Stefano and Jesús Blanco Head of operations: Lenín New to the airwaves, TV Caricuao has only been broadcasting since 2005, yet has over twenty-five years producing independent video for Caricuao and its surrounding communities, and boasts a well endowed video archive. Since 1980, TV Caricuao has been located in a building that used to function as the Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez (Simon Rodriguez National Experimental University or UNESR), which has various campuses or nuclei around the country. The university relocated because the precarious conditions of some of the buildings could not hold large numbers of students. The building now functions as the community television station, as well as a gathering place for the consejos comunales and missions.
Data 220.127.116.11. Caricuao
Taking its name from an Indian chief or cacique from the time of the conquest, Caricuao was conceived in the late 1960s as a satellite town at the far west of Caracas, and is now one of the most densely populated parishes with more than 150,000 inhabitants (Censo, 2001). Nestled in the valley are large blocks of housing project buildings called “UD-2” (Development Unit 2), “UD-3” and so forth, all similar structures, with mostly white façades. Being on the outskirts of Caracas, about thirty-minute train ride away from the city centre, Caricuao has preserved much of its natural environment; and it is considered one of the greener or “ecological” parishes of Caracas. The mountainside vegetation shares space with several urbanized areas on the slopes, consisting mostly of winding roads, small houses and ranchos (self-made homes). TV Caricuao is located not far up one of these hills, a fifteen-minute walk from the Caricuao train station. As with any dormitory town, most Caricuaenses (the inhabitants of Caricuao) catch the train in the early morning to work in Caracas and come back to Caricuao to rest at night. But in spite of little commercial leisure activity Caricuao has developed its own personality in various spheres, one of the most distinguishing traits being that it is the home of Venezuelan ska and reggae. One afternoon while I was at TV Caricuao, Morodo, a Spanish reggae singer was invited by one of the producers of TV Caricuao to be interviewed on their variety program Por Dentro y Por Fuera (From Inside and From Outside). 18.104.22.168. Programs and production Por Dentro y Por Fuera is produced by a group of young women from Caricuao with José Rengifo, a retired teacher, at the helm. The program covers a variety of themes, from politics and health to humour, music and entertainment, and anything else that may be going on in Caricuao, or Caracas for that matter. One of the
Data producers told me “it varies depending on the moment”. This flexibility was evident when the Spanish reggae singer turned up (unscheduled), and Mariuxi, the program’s moderator, threw on summery clothes and proceeded to interview her guest.
Because I was visiting the station in February, the Por Dentro y Por Fuera production team had just covered the carnival parades and festivities organized by the municipal government. As they previewed the footage they were particularly interested in picking out the interview with Desorden Público - one of Venezuela's most famous ska bands - because the band members said on camera that they would like to perform in Caricuao. Nevertheless the girls then mulled about the fact that maybe there was too much attention on Desorden Público – being so famous already- and it would be better to focus on other performers. As independent producers they have the freedom to shape and change their program, and they were deciding what would be most appropriate for the viewers in Caricuao. According to the station’s coordinator María de Stefano, Por Dentro y Por Fuera is an experimental program, and the producers are open to suggestions and are continuously trying to improve it. They sometimes have the station phone number up on screen so the audience can call in with feedback or criticism. Escuela de la Vida (School of Life) is another program produced at TV Caricuao that talks about topics of daily life, environmental problems, the country's financial situation, and the debate on XXI Century Socialism.xiii Hernán Soto, who told me he has been working with TV Caricuao since 1983, produces Esucela de la Vida. Other programs on the station include ‘Contact with the Community’; Vuelve Cigarrón, which focuses on national singer-songwriters (cantautores); and ‘EP’, a music program. Although the station offers studio and technical support if need be, most independent producers bring their programs ready made to be aired on the station. Programs
in general must have some social value, wether it be educational, or supportive of local talent or community organizations. 22.214.171.124. The people At TV Caricuao there are people from a variety of backgrounds. There are those who are teachers like Rengifo, Soto and coordinator Jesús Blanco, who is a music teacher. Most of the crew lives in Caricuao, one of the major exceptions being Jesús, who actually lives quite far away. The other coordinator, María, is a local form Caricuao. Producers are volunteers, and only the technical, security and maintenance personnel are wage earners. The technical staff sometimes does production work. The paid staff is equally attached to the sentiment, ideals and community commitment of the station. Like the producers, they are there to learn, not only the techniques, but also the values of community television. All are encouraged to participate in the various workshops on television content and techniques offered at the station. 126.96.36.199. Media, technology and broadcasting Although up on the hillsides, one of the main problems TV Caricuao is battling with is poor reception to some of its broadcasting areas. Apparently those closer to the station have fuzzy reception. “When they put up the antenna, they came at 7 o’clock at night and did it by eye and wrong. They haven’t come back to fix it”, one of the technical staff told me. Lenín said that they were not allowed to adjust or make repairs to the antenna themselves because it is government property. In spite of this serious drawback in transmission scope, the station is well recognized and liked within the community, probably partly due to the fact that it has been recording the events and lives of the inhabitants of Caricuao long before it became a television broadcaster or was identified with the revolutionary movement. The transmission problem does, however,
Data mean that many potential viewers are not reached, hindering their
development as a television station and a communication tool for the community. The station is on air 24 hours a day; throughout the night, it broadcasts music with TV Caricuao’s carátula (logo or test pattern). They broadcast their own programs from 5pm to 10pm. Occasionally, they have live broadcasts and people can call in, but most programs are pre-recorded and broadcasted later. Most of the production and log programming is done during the afternoon and then broadcast in the evening. Because the system is automated, there is little need for the staff to be there around the clock. Only the security guard and a couple of Maria’s dogs stay the night shift. TV Caricuao is recognized in the parish because it had functioned as independent community video producer for 25 years before becoming a television broadcaster in 2005. TV Caricuao’s video archive is listed as one of its strengths, a place where the audiovisual historical memory of the parish is carefully organized, classified and safeguarded on an up-to-date format. The station also provides a physical meeting space for other community organization and activities. The coordinators are dedicated in their efforts to continuously improve the station’s standards, by training staff and volunteers and updating media equipment. They teach not only the technical aspects of production, but also the social role of television.
Data 3.2.2 Camunare Rojo TV (photos Appendix E)
Motto: Essence of pueblo (the people, or of the small town) Location: Camunare Rojo, Yaracuy State. Broadcasting area: Camunare Rojo, Urachiche, Sabana de Palo, Chivacoa. Frequency: Channels 61 and 117 UHF, channel 43 on cable. Founding year: 2005. Broadcasting since April 2006. Focus: record the efforts of peasants and farmers as they reclaim the land and get organized in cooperative fundus; report on community events and issues that receive little or no coverage by the local media. Coordinators: Wendy Durán and Werling Durant We awaken with the soft cry of our creative conscience, through the images and sounds of our people; history, struggles and experiences that begin to draw paths of hope, paths of dreams. With the liberating vision and voice of our country's peasants. Camunare Rojo TV (Camunare Rojo TV banner). xiv Camunare Rojo TV is born out of the inspiration of two sisters: Wendy and Werling. After watching what they considered was unfair media coverage of a violent clash between landowners and peasants, where the latter were vilified, the sisters decided it was time Camunare Rojo had its own television station, one that was on the side of the farmers. Since then, Camunare Rojo TV has followed the journey of peasants who have taken over land, formed cooperatives and have set some of the precedents of the revolutionary ideal on cooperative farming and production. Brick by brick, literally, the sisters built the station. They acquired a little house on a plot of land and put up the studio at the back of the house. A group of people who were doing a construction course at Misión Vuelvan Caras (see chapter 2.3.3) voluntarily helped build the station as a practical exercise for their course. They used
artesian equipment to make bricks out of a mixture of cement, water and camunare earth. “ We used this earth to build the blocks”, Wendy said as she showed me the yellow soil on which the station was built. This area was originally inhabited by indigenous people from the Caquetío group called the Camure-enare, which Wendy said means “the place where there is yellow earth”; this is one of the theories on the origin of the name Camunare. Another explanation is that Camunare means “the place where you can get camaso”, a bejuco (type of reed) the Indians use to make the baskets they carry on their backs. 188.8.131.52.Camunare Rojo If the word ‘Camunare’ links the town and its people to their earthly and indigenous origins, the name ‘Rojo’ (red) identifies without a doubt their political tendencies. “Camunare Rojo is the crib of Communism [in Venezuela],” César, one of the producers, told me. Camunare Rojo is called Rojo because in the 1960s its hillsides harboured the leftist guerrilla resistance. Camunare Rojo has been identified for several decades as a focal point of resistance, not only because of political dissidents hiding in the sierra, but because of its history of confrontations between latifundistas (landowners) and peasants. But this history has had little recognition, and even less have the people who lost their lives in the violent conflicts. Camunare Rojo TV wants the stories of those who are fighting for the land to be recorded and acknowledged. According to Wendy, there are about 4000 people living in Camunare Rojo; the small town forms part of the Urachiche Municipality, which has around 18,200 inhabitants living in the major towns and villages and scattered among the smaller and isolated caseríos (hamlets) and farms. Camunare Rojo TV also broadcasts to some areas of the larger neighbouring Municipality of Bruzual. The station's viewers share a tie with the land and farming, animal
rearing or country life in general. Camunare Rojo itself is not isolated; it is only a two-minute drive from the major highway that leads to Barquisimeto in less than three-quarters of an hour. Wendy said that before endeavouring in community television, she had toyed with the idea of setting up an internet and online games centre in Camunare Rojo, but they do not have broadband yet, and the community television opportunity took its place. It is only a question of time before broadband and internet reach the small town, since some of its neighbours, like Chivacoa, are already connected. Nevertheless, smaller settlements high up in the sierra or located far inland, are quite isolated in services and lifestyle. Camunare Rojo TV makes a conscientious effort to visit these areas and record and publicize events and issues that concern them, that way recognizing and integrating the people of the remote areas into the greater community. 184.108.40.206. Programs and production Of the three stations I visited, Camunare Rojo definitely embodied the most romanticised version of community television, not only in content but also in style: Clear and sharp are the words of the old peasant: ‘a community station is an instrument of social struggle…’ He dries his eyes, and takes a breath. ‘…A tool for cultural development, which is so important for the people of our villages.’ Many remember this scene from an interview to a blind peasant done by the participants of a Community Television workshop in Yaracuy… (Deronne, 2003) Wendy and Werling began their journey in community television in 2003, when they heard CONATEL was going to hold a workshop on television production in Yaracuy. Wendy told me that at the beginning they were hesitant to participate because Werling and she, although from Camunare Rojo, did not work as farmers. She thought the other participants might reject their presence because they did not “work
Data the land”. But her fears did not materialize, and in a way, their particular circumstances allowed them to continue the work in
television production. All together, twelve women from the area took the community television production course taught by Thierry Deronne, a filmmaker and the vice President of Vive TV. Of the twelve participants only Wendy and Werling went on to set up a community television station. The other girls dropped out because they had to work or had children and homes to tend, Wendy told me. A filmmaker and journalist originally from Belgium, Deronne’s influence can clearly be seen in the audiovisual language and camerawork on Camunare Rojo TV. They have a preference for close shots of the face and hands, as way of “capturing expression”, and allow for long sequences in order to give the interviewees a chance to express their whole ideas without interruption during recording, or dissecting it later in the editing. This style differs greatly from TV Caricuao or Lara Tve, which use the more dynamic style of punching up (selecting between) the different in-studio cameras. The coordinators have tried to set up some regular programs at Camunare Rojo TV, but have not been able to find people to commit to their production. Some of these projects were a news program called En la calle (On the streets); Comunidad organizada (Organized Community), about the consejos comunales; and Entre pupitres (Among schools desks). During my fieldwork I observed Werling trying to get some teenagers involved in relaunching Interacción Juvenil (Youth Interaction), a program that focuses on young people’s issues within the system by reflecting on the past, present and future. She was teaching them how to do pre-production research and how to answer audience questions (it was to be aired live). They had not had much success in creating ongoing programs, and their strength lay in one-off documentaries and reportages. Wendy told me that they get a lot of invitations to cover events. These can vary from celebrations and festivals, school and sports
Data events, or problems that are occurring in the vicinity. I got my first chance to join one of the camera and production men called César,
on Thursday March 15, when the station was asked to cover a conflict over water supply and burning in the sierra. We travelled up in the municipal jeep to a remote area called El Vegón (fieldnotes in Appendix G). Through this event I was able to observe how closely Camunare Rojo TV works with the formal government institutions, like the council, and new tertiary sector groups, like the community councils and missions. Support was mutual, the television station covering the events that concerned the government and community agencies, and these in return provided information and sometimes resources (like transport) to the station. Another event they covered was an interschool sports carnival that took place in a remote small town called Nuarito. Werling (coordinator) and Miguel (cameraman and producer) interchanged roles recording and doing interviews. Werling and Miguel recorded all aspects of the event and some additional interviews. For Camunare Rojo TV what was important was to get the local children on television. “Officials always want to be interviewed”, Werling said dismissively; nevertheless she did interview the Mayor of the José Antonio Páez municipality, and the chief of education of Yaracuy State. Camunare Rojo TV has done many documentaries and followups on the trials and progress of the peasants who are working on the communally run farms. In the video (Appendix H) I include some footage on program they did on the Cooperativa Integración Yala 2005. The peasants are seen watching footage of themselves that Camunare Rojo TV had recorded (on a previous occasion), and then they are commenting on the good job the station has done at documenting their efforts to reclaim and work the land as a cooperative within the socialist proposed scheme. I included parts of this interview in the video because I felt it showed one of the most
important issues for the people at Camunare Rojo TV, at least at this point in time. 220.127.116.11. The people Wendy is in charge of community and public relations and Werling has taking over production and particularly editing. There are several paid employees who work at the station on a fairly regular basis, but I was told that the wages were below “minimum wage”.xv The low wage undoubtedly had an impact on people’s commitment to work at the station and is probably one of the main reasons footage goes cold for so long before being edited and broadcast, as they must engage in other activities in order to make ends meet. All the people at the station were either from Camunare Rojo, Urachiche or its surrounding areas. They were all involved in some or other aspect of the revolution or at least sympathized with the ideals. For example, César had participated in Misión Barrio Adentro and is a member of the casa communal de Curasao cooperative. According Wendy, her own revolutionary roots date back 150 years: “we are not here because of Chávez, my great great grand father was a revolutionary since the times of Zamora”, she said. Her father had been a left-wing supporter since the 60s when the guerrillas were up in the sierra. Not surprisingly a sense of engagement with the revolution permeated many of Camunare Rojo’s programs, even those that had nothing to do with politics. Wendy said the reason why they have so many programs about the consejos comunales, mission or motores de poder is because “…a revolutionary sentiment is what drives us […] is what makes us do it”.xvi 18.104.22.168. Media, technology and broadcasting Camunare Rojo TV is on air 24 hours a day. During most of the day they put on reruns of their own programs or programs sourced through Vive TV; these include productions from other community
television stations, independent productions, and even international productions. They occasionally retransmit the VTV signal. Their programming of the day – new programs - commences at 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening and finished at around 10. Sometimes they just have the carátula (test pattern or name) and soft background music. If there are any local notices (like communal meetings) or emergencies (a girl came in to say her dog was lost), the information is written underneath the station name on the test pattern. Camunare Rojo TV’s major technical problem is that the studio they built has very high brick walls with no foam panels, therefore sound echoes all around the room. Wendy said that CONATEL had provided an architect and an engineer to help them design the building, but she suspected they had little experience in the matter. They also face broadcasting limitations. Apparently there is no reception in the centre or lowlands of Urachiche. Other smaller towns, like Nuarito, cannot see the station either. This is shame given that the station’s aim is to include the people of these areas and get them to participate, which is difficult if they cannot even watch broadcasts. The commitment to a revolutionary ideal is what gave the initial breath to Camunare Rojo TV. It is no small task to set up a television station in a sparsely populated semi-remote area with people who have no previous experience in audiovisual production. One of the major challenges they now face is recruiting and maintaining a committed staff to ensure regular program production. By moderating their “revolutionary image”, Camunare Rojo TV could attract local people who do not necessarily support Chávez, but would like to participate in community television production.
Data 3.2.3 Lara Tve (Photos Appendix F) Motto: “Image with popular flavour”. Location: La Carucieña neighbourhood, on the outskirts of Barquisimeto, Lara State. Broadcasting area: Irribaren municipal area. Frequency: Channel 60 UHF. Founding year: 2004. Focus: Live programs to encourage viewers' feedback on air. Children's programs, with children and teenagers participating in production. Coordinators: Richard Azuaje and Haibi Rodríguez.
The motivation to set up Lara Tve stemmed from the unreliable media coverage of the April 11, 2002 social uprising or coup. “The country changed, we had to do something different,” said Richard Azuaje Lara Tve’s coordinator. Although Lara Tve was born out of a commitment to offer citizens an alternative medium of information from state or commercial television, it has gone beyond this initiative to genuinely provide a space where people can share their ideas. Programs are produced and broadcast live from the Lara Tve’s studio to Barquisimeto’s Iribarren Municipality, and according to Richard possibly someday to all of Lara: …If we had [the appropriate] equipment we could truly change the concept of media and communication here in the State of Lara, and that’s what we’re aiming for. 22.214.171.124. Lara Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara, is a city with just under one million inhabitants. It is located on an axis between the llanos or planes that are farming and cattle land, at the foot of the Andes Mountains and close to Maracaibo, the oil capital of Venezuela. Nonetheless, the city has a tranquil air compared to the pulsing rhythm of Caracas. Music is what characterizes Lara, and many
Guaros (as the people of Lara are know) of all ages and walks of life, either sing, dance, play a traditional instrument or do all three. It is not surprising then that Lara Tve's most popular spot is its Saturday music program, featuring Salsa and local sounds like Tamunangue and Raspacanillas. Richard said: When a Salsa program gets 150 text messages in less than an hour and 50 phone calls…[from viewers saying] ‘I’m here with my mom, we want to watch Salsa…’ then we know we are doing something [right]. (interview Azuaje, 2007) Lara Tve is located on the outskirts of Barquisimeto in a neighbourhood called La Carucieña. “La Carucieña used to be a farm estate belong to the Caruci family, and was known commonly as la carrucha” (correspondence Rojas, 2007). Nowadays it is a satellite neighborhood consisting mostly of small houses, recreational areas, a sheltered market, and the Centro de Participación Ciudadana (Citizen's Participation Centre) or CPC, where Lara Tve is located. A couple of months prior to my visit, the CPC had changed hands in what was described as a pacific takeover by some members of the community (Voces Urgentes, January 20 and 23, 2007). It is now called the Centro de Poder Comunal (Communal Power Centre). 126.96.36.199.Programs and production On the day I arrived at Lara Tve, I got to sit in on their production meeting. There were all sorts of people, ranging from youngsters to people their fifties, and of different work, educational, economic and religious backgrounds. They must prepare their programs before coming to the studio: organize props, guest speakers and video footage. All the programs I saw had similar formats but very different themes, varying according to the interest and background of the producers. The format is “in studio”, the producer is usually also the moderator, and sits facing the cameras, talking about the subject matter or event. Producers or hosts
sometimes have a guest who may or may not be an expert on some theme, and they chat to the audience at home. “The point of being communitarian is that the community listens to us, that we are heard,” Richard told producers at the meeting. Producers are expected to create a program that has a social function (educational, informational, cultural), but at the same time is well received by the community. The phone number is put up on the television screen so people at home can participate by calling in or texting. This feedback is also used to evaluate audience reception of a program. When a program has been on air five or seven times, we measure it [audience viewing] through the incoming calls from different areas of the city […] and we ask what do they want to see. (interview Azuaje, 2007) One of Lara Tve’s missions is that 40 percent of their programs be made specifically with children in mind. They took on this task because “we saw that there was more on national television made for adults, but not much for children,” said Richard. It is a reasonable audience to target, as roughly 30 percent of Venezuelans are under the age of 15. Some of the programs like Renacer Radiante (Radiant Rebirth) and Caritas Felices (Happy Faces), are actually presented, partially scripted and produced by the children themselves. Lara Tve’s most popular children’s program is Amiguitos (Little Friends), which runs for an hour-and-a-half on Saturday afternoon. “This gets full of girls and boys. We invite the community to come [to the studio]”, said Richard. Other programs for young people include Tiempo de Aventura (Time for Adventure), which is geared to a wider age range of children and teenagers. Like the children’s programs, most of the adult programs are also broadcast live from the studio at the CPC. According to Richard’s survey, audiences were not too keen on opinion programs (debates, discussions, usually political), as they wanted to be able to watch
Data something informative but relaxing when they got home. The most
popular programs with adult viewers were musical, like El Club de los Príncipes (The Club of Prices) and Raspacanillas, which are a block on Saturdays that people stay tuned in to. With these programs through which we have built up our audience, we are going to add more sections. With the Salsa program we are going to introduce sports because [the man who produces this program] has experience with sports, has experience with community councils, and we can insert news items within the entertainment. (Ibid) This strategy allows the station coordinators to inform the public about things they consider to be important – like activities of the missions and community councils and local news items - but which might not get community attention if left solely as an informative program. Another important function of Lara Tve is to go where private and state television stations dare not or care not. “We are always there, in the community, in positive, to broadcast the best [side]”, explained Richard. For example, a group of people had held an employee of the local water company hostage in his car as a way to pressure the company to take their issue seriously. Richard said that Lara Tve was there the whole time, not only to capture the conflict, but stayed throughout the whole process until it was resolved. He contrasted their methods to typical commercial television news coverage: “[They make] a summary or sample [of the event] of what’s happening. But we do everything, we go further.” 188.8.131.52.The people Richard, a former postman, said he got involved in community television because of the political and social changes happening in the country. He had five years of experience in media as a producer and director of a community radio station. Along with his partner Haibi, he coordinates Lara Tve. Producers are all independent, and most
seemed to have arrived through word of mouth. There were at least three programs where the producers were involved in a Church group, others were involved in missions or community councils, as well as other groups, like the Arab association, or students from the local high school. Producers work voluntarily, yet they must also participate in finding ways to raise funds for the station, like selling raffle tickets and looking for sponsorship and advertising from local businesses. Most did not have a background in television, and many were given the opportunity to learn television production through courses given at Lara Tve. At the production meeting independent producers spoke about the challenges they faced on set and proposed ways to help each other out: “It would be good if colleagues helped each other out […] because sometimes there is no one here”, said Yolanda, the producer of Pinceladas Venezolanas (Venezuelan PaintStrokes). “Here those who know more have to help those that don’t know [about television production]”. Nectali, producer of Aventura Ecológica (Ecological Adventure) suggested that Yolanda do what he had done: “On our program we announced that we needed a cameraperson [to do an internship]”. He then told the others about his own mishap, “I recorded for half a day, and didn’t register anything [on tape]”. Jackson a producer and cameraman at Lara Tve gave some technical suggestions to the other producers: “Sometimes one spends a long time alone just talking, we could change the shooting angles and distance, to try to create more energy”.
Haibi said at the meeting that the station did not have money to pay technical staff to assist producers. They are mainly in charge of setting up the camera, master control and broadcasting. Most of the operative staff are quite young, in their late teens or early 20s. Some of them have been with Lara Tve since it started. … I had always been interested, because at the beginning it was all rumours […] it was hard to tell if after all those meetings the [community television] project was really going to go through or not. (interview Jhopser, 2007)
Jhopser was 13 when he began working at Lara Tve. He is now one of the people in charge of master control, camera and editing; he said he only likes the “practical stuff”. 184.108.40.206.Media, technology and broadcasting Lara Tve is fortunate to be located at the CPC because it is easy to reach and the centre is involved in various community activities, not to mention that they do not have to pay rent or electricity. Lara Tve was originally proposed as a parochial station to be called Roble Tve, but when the project was introduced at CONATEL they changed the name to Lara Tve because it was the first community station of the state (interview Rojas, 2007). Richard is convinced that Lara Tve’s identity can encompass the whole state, but for the time being they were gathering signatures from Barquisimeto’s surrounding neighbourhoods on a petition for approval and equipment from CONATEL that will allow the broadcaster to reach these areas. He feels it is important to broaden their coverage in order to reach communities where people actively involved in social movements need the station to acknowledge, record and broadcast their struggles: [They] can come here to the studio and make their program. They don’t have to come on behalf of anybody. [They] just need to come, and we will coordinate a time slot […] If you go to a private media station, they are not going to provide that space for you. (interview Azuaje, 2007) Richard is confident of Lara Tve’s expansion throughout the different communities of Barquisimeto, which in turn will attract new volunteers to work at the channel. Thanks to the volunteers and their diverse backgrounds and interests Lara Tve has a wide-range of programs. Most of the programs are produced in studio. The station coordinators ideally would like to have some of the crew out on the streets on a daily basis gathering footage from the community (local news), and then just coming in the afternoon to edit and broadcast it.
Data Their main drawback is the maintenance of video equipment, as at
the time of this study they were confined to the studio because four of their cameras were broken. The high cost of acquiring and maintaining equipment is one of the major reasons why television as a form of alternative media is still out of reach for most communities (Gumucio Dagron, 2001).
3.3.The identity and role of community television in Venezuela
3.3.1.Community television as an instrument of social change The connection of the new community television stations in Venezuela with Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution are obvious and undeniable: most promotional and advertising material is government funded and on government schemes; they produce programs that address and explain government projects and goals; in some cases they share space with government bodies; and they receive their equipment and assessment through CONATEL, a government agency. In fact most community media worldwide receives some sort of external support and funding, sometimes from churches, universities, foreign agencies or NGOs. But in Venezuela, government support affects the role of community stations as instruments of social change. As such, they are basically following the guidelines set by the Revolutionary process, and this limits them as a medium through which to question its projects. Shragge (2003) suggests that community organizations should contribute to the process of opposition in society by resisting capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and environmental destruction. While alternative media worldwide claims to challenge the power of governments, in Venezuela it finds itself in a totally different situation. The state identifies itself as the “alternative” from the status quo, and those who call themselves the “opposition” are in fact advocating a return to how things were prior to Chávez’s revolution. The government may have paved the wave for the development of alternative media, but this should not hinder the media’s role as an alternative, even to the Revolution itself. “We want to get rid of this state, and the one that follows too […] to eventually become an autonomous peoples,” an independent radio producer told me. Even those in community media who advocate independent or anarchical
Discussion values of self-governance, are stuck supporting the government because they are not self sustaining. This may undermine their independence more profoundly than if they were supported by a variety of commercial entities, given the ideological fortress encompassing politics, education and media that the Revolution is building for itself.
“A truly anarchist and social revolution will not be the work of revolutionaries but of society itself” (Baldelli, 1971: 8). If community television wants to be taken seriously as an instrument of social change, it must strive to achieve independence from government financial support without falling into the hands of the oligarchic commercial media. In the end it is the communities that must support and give life – financial and social capital - to their television station. Society itself must make the choice and effort to change, if not, it cannot be considered a social revolution, and it is simply the substitution of one group of leaders for another. On the other hand, one must accept that Chávez proposed the missions, cooperatives, and other alternatives to traditional institutions and community groups, because there was and continues to be an enormous chasm in the comparative living standards of the Venezuelan population. To not address this somehow or other simply demonstrates a lack of sensitivity on the part of political and financial leaders, not to mention of one strata of the population towards the other. So social change in Venezuela was and is a necessity, if the nation were to uphold high ethical principles of equality. Although community action and development tend to focus inwards on the community itself, the forces that shape practice are structured by wider political and economic conditions that can affect the availability of support for community organizations (Shragge, 2003). If in Venezuela all proposals and structures for social change available are coming from the government, then that is what community television will support and promote. If there is a change
Discussion of strategies or government, more than likely community television will adapt itself to whatever social programs are available in the future. Ideally community television will be an instrument through
which to evaluate existing policies, and promote alternatives offered by community members. Possibly growth in the sense of community could give way to a more caring and cohesive society. Wether or not it is achievable, it is the goal for which to aim. 3.3.2. Community television and adult education Wether Chávez’s programs survive the test of time or not, at least those who got involved learned about alternative forms of production and distribution, especially socialism. The majority of the peoples in third world countries do not enjoy the benefits derived from liberal markets, so when economists worry that nationalization or cooperatives could ruin the country’s economy, they fail to see that to most people this does not mean much, if anything at all. When I asked a street vendor (buhonero) in Caricuao about his thoughts on the country’s current situation, he said: “We’re alright, we’ve got work, we’re not going hungry. What more do we need?” Political and economic reforms come and go, the social order remains fixed. Adult education “is inspired by a utopian vision of a society characterised by greater social justice” (Mayo: 1999, 138). The underlying mission of adult education is more than teaching literacy or practical skills; it is to change the thinking of society, particularly the minds of those oppressed by the social order. Many of the workshops I saw, heard or read about were partly inspired by the dialogical and dialectical engagement teaching methods proposed by Freire. Programs like the NUDES, Misión Vuelvan Caras and Misión Cultura (Appendix C) are meant to incorporate learners’ culture and traditional knowledge into their lessons. But they are also about changing the mode of production; this is not incidental, as radical
adult education initiatives intended to alter the level of consciousness and aimed at social transformation are most likely effective during periods of economic transformation (Mayo, 1999). For Freire the climate for social transformation can be created through non-formal popular education groups and cultural circles. All sorts of adult education programs have arisen within the revolutionary framework: from basic literacy and tertiary education, to traditional knowledge. Community television has taken an active role in adult education, not only promoting government programs but also applying them. Passing on knowledge is expected within the television stations, it is a social duty as well as a means of recruiting new volunteers to work at the station. Here is a summarised extract of my fieldnotes on a young man’s learning experience at Lara Tve: I didn’t know what a community station was […] Mrs. Nancy brought me here, and I learnt many things […] I’m in charge of the master in the mornings. I set up the cinema school and documentaries [programs]. My dream was to play the guitar, television was not an option for me, I always used to say that I was going to be a journalist, joking I’d say I’ll go around the UCLA [university] selling journals […] And now television is what I want to do all my life […] They gave me the opportunity to do a course [taught by Haibi] as soon as I got here. They treated me so well. They sent me to Caracas to do a course with the Cuban teacher Guillermo Centeno, what I really liked was that he talked – if they start writing I don’t get anything – he talked to us, he was practical, he put me on a computer practically the very day I got there, he started with the practical work. (Weissman, 2007) By getting in involved in Lara Tve, Weissman got the opportunity to learn a trade that provided him with greater job prospects than he had originally aspired to in life. At Lara Tve people who have done a television production course have to teach the new recruits. During my fieldwork, I saw some form of teaching and training happening at all three stations, though the dynamics varied from one station to another. The only two classes I actually participated in - at TV Caricuao - were quite traditional in their methods, with the teacher at
the helm talking about a particular theme, in these cases audiovisual techniques and language, and the historical background of capitalism (among other things). Both Gramsci and Freire see educational activity in the area of civil society as essential to transforming power relations. In Gramsci’s terms, it serves to challenge the existing hegemony. The coordinators seemed to fit the role of Gramsci’s organic intellectuals: educators or guides who are helping empower people with less privileged conditions (in this case perhaps better called the pueblo instead of the proletariat, masses or peasants). 3.3.3. The community station revolutionary
Por donde quiera que ando ella anda conmigo Conmigo de la mano siempre estará Luchando por el pueblo y el oprimido La revolución no se cansará (Song lyrics by Rafael Mena) Wherever I go she goes with me Holding my hand she will always be Fighting for the people and the oppressed The revolution will never rest
Many of the people in community television share the Revolutionary desire for social transformation, and believe – at least to a certain extent – that Chávez’s proposals can bring about change. Some people expressed their loyalty to the Revolution wholeheartedly, like Zoila the administrator at Camunare Rojo TV, who said she would listen to Chávez’s entire program Aló Presidente, even if it lasted eight hours.v Many of the young men visibly wore their support: red caps and shirts with Che Guevara or a Bolivarian icon printed on them. Wendy, Weissman, and Rengifo, amongst many others, said their revolutionary roots predate Chávez’s movement. And yet others just see the Bolivarian Revolution as a stepping-stone to either a socialist or an anarchical society. On the other hand, I also heard many people in community television and other grassroots organizations complain about government officials either being corrupt or false revolutionaries.
We have to be self critical… root out the bad things too […] We have to start a revolution within the revolution, if not this is just going to continue to be the same […] There are people who just dance to the tune… they seem more Chavistas than us. (Mena, 2007) Rafael Mena, a composer and interpreter of revolutionary music, said that many people (he gave me a specific example of a band) show support for Chávez because they want government funding or contracts, but do not uphold Revolutionary ideals. Wendy said she did not know if there was “a way of changing that culture [of self-service and corruption]”. To the dismay of all those who once hoped that Chávez would do away with corruption, there seems to be a tendency amongst some in government to work harder at reaping the state coffers, than at sowing the seeds of revolution.xvii “The red right is the new political class with a lot of money, like the local governor,” a community radio producer said. To anarchist writer Baldelli this inexorably happens when any group comes into power, no matter what their ideology; “inevitably and significantly, any Left that is triumphant becomes the new Right” (Baldelli, 1971: 8). Voluntarism sets community television apart from the negative connotations that envelop bureaucratic institutions. The main motivations for people to volunteer at the stations seemed to be: • • A sense of duty towards their community or society in general. A particular cause or interest they championed (religious, musical, political) and wanted to communicate to others. • A desire to learn about television production. In any case most producers were not getting any money for their work, most of the operative staff earned minimum wage, and although coordinators managed the stations’ finances, and may have received a percentage of the budget for their efforts, they did not seem to be getting rich from it. Voluntarism influenced the structure and dynamics of the stations as well as the nature of the programs. It allowed participants greater freedom of expression than employees of state and
Discussion commercial channels (because their livelihood was not at stake),
creating a more horizontal organizational structure. Program themes and style were in most cases chosen by the producers, not imposed by the station coordinators. On the other hand, people felt less committed, and there were higher levels of absenteeism and tardiness than in private enterprises. 3.3.4. “What kind of television do we want?” “What kind of television do we want?” was a question put forth in state and community media forums in the wake of RCTV’s closure. Everyone believes that RCTV lost its concession to air because it aligned itself with leaders of the opposition to publicly criticized state policies and political leaders, and ultimately supported a (failed) coup to oust Chávez. The government also claims some of their programs did not respect certain standards expected of open air television. MINCI considered many of RCTV’s programs to be shallow and sensationalist, or aired irresponsibly at inappropriate time slots (where they might reach children viewers), among other criticism. MINCI published a 360-page booklet explaining why they were not going to renew RCTV’s concession. The following statement in the booklet sums up the government’s view on the matter: The non-renewal of the concession granted to RCTV, at the end of its expiry, is a legal prerogative of the Government, but, also, is demanded by Venezuelan civil society in response to the social responsibility misdemeanours of the media company RCTV. (Libro Blanco sobre RCTV, 2007) Community television stations are expected to produce programs that are educational, cultural and informative; but when it comes to addressing their responsibility towards civil society, this becomes more complicated. “Before we ask ourselves what kind of television we want, we have to figure out what kind of society we want,” said Gerardo pondering on this question. Venezuela is currently going through a phase of rethinking society - if not
transforming it - and community television has being caught up in the middle of the chaotic nature of this readjustment. How do you know what kind of television programs to produce if you are in process of questioning the values of your society? What is valuable information or newsworthy? What is acceptable entertainment? How should people dress and express themselves? What should society look like reflected in community television? And how do you address the political changes? Community television should know where it stands on these issues. If it works at true grassroots level, then it must be able to reflect what is happening in society in a fairly accurate degree. They have a duty to find out and broadcast how people really feel, how these changes have transformed – or not – their lives, what kind of society are Venezuelans hoping for, what are our true expectations, what kind of television do we really want. At no point while doing research did I encounter anyone, not even Arnell Uzcátegui at CONATEL, saying that community television must talk about government programs and politics. It seemed to occur naturally and willingly. Maybe it is an unspoken understanding, maybe it is lack of imagination, maybe they think this is the television society wants or needs. The only station that had a method for measuring community feedback was Lara Tve. The other two did not seem to be evaluating their popularity with the public, although Jesús from TV Caricuao did say they ought to be doing it. María said that the problem with alternative media is that it is institutionalised by CONATEL, and that sometimes recognition was based more on who you knew, than on merit for your work and trajectory. But this is regarding recognition within the television industry, and not within the community. María also said that the state does not evaluate its own audience receptivity. Since the state projects itself as a sort of cultural authority in charge of the preservation, development and creation of values, its television programs also have cultural authority. Being an authority on the
Discussion matter it may find it very hard to evaluate itself. On the other hand
community television is far from projecting itself as an authority; it is there to listen to and serve society. As Wendy said: “My understanding of community television is that it is instrument of battle through which the community can present its needs.” 3.3.5. Carving an identity The community television coordinators have the difficult task of carving out an identity for their community station. They do not want their station to be enveloped in the mantle of government television as Richard pointed out: We don’t want to be a copy of Vive […] and even though we have had help from Vive, and we are very grateful to them, it doesn’t mean we want to copy their format. Remember that each area, each pueblo [group of people], each community is a very different culture. (Azuaje, 2007) At each channel they seemed to focus on a different aspect of identity: image, style, quality, dynamics, ideals or relationship with the community. At TV Caricuao, Jesús and María were focused on quality and fine-tuning producers’ understanding of appropriate television techniques. “That image that you capture is what others are going to see,” said Jesús, while teaching us at an evening workshop how to do adequate camera shots. He zooms in and out of our faces, showing how different angles and shots can covey different feelings. Jesús reminds us that although the community producer is not held to the same standards as commercial producers, he or she should still do things properly, “simple but good.” I also found an article on the Internet in which Jesús talked at a forum about what kind of television the community wanted, and he said there is a deficit of qualified people to build the television that the community needs, particularly a lack of actors and writers (Bracci Roa: 2007). On the other side of the country, in Barquisimento, Gerardo told me that the reason they did not produce many scripted and
fictional programs is because “Venezuelans are more vocal; we don’t like to write […] telling a story you jump from one point to the next…” And in effect looking at Lara Tve’s programs, there is no fiction. Furthermore, their emphasis is on live interactive television. Richard’s main worry at the time was that they could not do any on scene reporting because of damaged cameras. To them quality was getting out there and covering the events that were happening in the community, or a live studio program that the public identified with and enjoyed. From my observations there seemed to be more focus on content than camera technique. Camunare Rojo TV’s approach was different. They wanted to capture other people’s stories through a sensitive use of audiovisual language. They were very careful with their camerawork and editing. But their point was not to entertain audiences with a well-made program. It was to capture the essence of the event they were portraying, to do justice to the efforts of the people on camera, be it peasants working the land or children in a sports event. Also people in the countryside have a different perception of time and space, and it was not the first time I had seen or read about a tendency for them to use long uninterrupted sequences in their audiovisual work. All three stations felt they had a duty to cover local news, although they found this to be a demanding task. The immediacy in processing and broadcasting required of news events, the cost and risks to equipment, and the cost of paying someone to be on call to cover the events, in general proved too much. Nevertheless in the event of political upheaval or some other social uprising similar to what happened in April 2002, the community stations are set to be on the spot. This is one of their founding motivations, that the people of the community be informed of what is really happening when events may be obscured and twisted on national television. This is their duty to the community.
Discussion 3.3.6. How the community sees the channel
According to Studdert (2005) a person can only be a member of a community if he or she is accepted as a member by other community members. Likewise a television station must enjoy the recognition of community members if it is going to represent them. If community members are to be inclined to participate in the makings of community television or support it in some way, they must feel a sense of “ownership” over the media (Gumucio Dagron, 2001). Of the three stations I visited, Lara Tve most demonstrated these qualities. They had a heterogenous representation of the community (producers of many different ages, backgrounds and interests), measured their audience ratings, tried to get financial support or donations from local businesses, sold raffle tickets within the community, and invited community members and audiences to participate on the programs. Although the other two stations wanted community acknowledgment and participation, they did not seem to have a clear strategy to achieve this yet, and seemed more preoccupied with other identity aspects, like recording important community issues or creating an image for their channel. Because I spent the longest amount of time in Camunare Rojo and was lodged at the station itself, I had the opportunity to wander around town – Urachiche - and ask the locals if they watched Camunare Rojo Tve and what they thought about it. They had a variety of responses: a) “Well-to-do” ladies coming out of church: xviii I like it when they have educational activities […] but they always give everything a political twist. They should change that red image [test pattern with the name of the channel]… they could sometimes make it blue, yellow or red. Sometimes you want some other kind of programming that […] everything isn’t politics and revolution.
Discussion These women felt Camunare Rojo Tve reflected the ideals of the revolution, and they were sympathetic to the opposition; one lamented that RCTV was soon to close. Because they said they did charity work with the church, I suggested that maybe they could
make a program on Camunare Rojo Tve. One of them said there was an eloquent young man at the church group; he might be good on television, that they could do a program on sexual awareness and responsibility for youths. “They should invite the people of the community [to participate] through the television station”, one suggested. b) Local clothes shopkeeper: “I like a channel with variety not just one ideology,” he said to me in English (he had lived in the USA). He said he actually could not see Camunare Rojo Tve where he lived (broadcasting problems), but seemed aware of their “revolutionary” reputation. I asked how about having a commercial for his shop on Camunare Rojo Tve, to which he responded “it’s not a good investment.” He then suggested they should talk about environmental issues on the station, like illegal tree felling. I pointed out that they did. c) Local spiritism (santería) shopkeeper: xix He said he liked Camunare Rojo Tve “because they do reports on the missions and cooperatives”. He said that although he is not into politics, he likes to be informed. He said: They teach you a lot […] what’s going on in the community […] areas that are affected […] about poverty. They are interested in the elderly and children. They are concerned with felling and burning of the trees […] the droughts […] the problem with the sands. He then said that one day he might go by to visit the station and its people. “This town [pueblo] doesn’t question […] we are too
sectarian”. I asked one of his customers on her opinion on the station and she replied dryly: “That television talks a lot about communism”. d) At the local bar and restaurant in Camunare Rojo: The restaurant owner said he liked the themes on Camunare Rojo Tve, the fact that they go into the community to show what is going on. He suggested they could put on movies, have a news program, and some cartoons on weekday afternoons to entertain children. “We support [the television station] because they are of the community […] I told them they could hold their meetings at this establishment.” A customer at the restaurant said he liked that they had programs on farming, “the kind of work people around here do,” and that they explained about the credits available for farmers. Wendy was interested in what people had responded, but she felt that they are not ready to deal with audience demands as they currently struggle to find enough people to keep the station functioning. She said that they have tried recruiting people, they have gone to the schools, but that it is hard to find people who will commit to regularly produce a program. They either are not interested, or if they say they are, they do not turn up. “There is a problem with responsibility”, she said, people do not want to take on the responsibility of working at the television station. TV Caricuao does not suffer this problem so acutely since they have regular operational staff on the payroll. Because TV Caricuao has functioned for such a long time as an independent video producer and archive, it seems to be in a process of readjusting to the demands of its role as a broadcasting station. They have an advantage of already being well know in the community: “They recognize us when we are on the streets [on scene reporting], people treat us very well,” said Elvis. He said they get community feedback through phone calls, “10-15 people would call each day to ask about the program schedule and congratulate us.” When I asked him about
other community members making programs for the station, he said “plenty of people call [to make a program], but they don’t turn up, like they change their mind”. Most Venezuelan community stations have only been broadcasting for about three years and are not yet well known within the community. Furthermore, audiences can be unfamiliar with the role of community media, and sometimes compare them to national or regional television, expecting to see commercial films or cartoons for example. Of the three stations I studied, each had a different way of handling its identity and role with the community, focusing on the aspects they considered were important to develop at that time. Eventually all three stations could do some survey work to get an idea of what the public thinks of the station and what they would like from it. I feel that although programs that concentrate on social change are important, children are a key target audience, given they make up a large segment of the population, and that there are not really many programs designed for them. It is also a great way to engage an audience that can “grow up” with the station, and possibly participate in its makings when they reach their teens. 3.3.7.Mirroring the community Community television is made for the community by members of that same community, therefore the people on television look like the local people, unlike the hosts, reporters and actors of mainstream media. Venezuela’s commercial television is dominated by stereotypical female and male archetypes that share some features with the predominant national population, but for most part fit current globalised standards of ideal physique and fashion. State television channels like Vive TV have made a point of portraying “real” people. But because they broadcast nationally to different areas of the country, what is daily-life for one group is foreign to
another. Therefore Vive’s programs represent a “variety of realities” not common to all communities. At the community stations hosts and moderators were allowed to be themselves, no matter how scruffy or groomed. Men usually appeared on their programs dressed as they had been all day. The ladies made more of an effort to dress up and fix their hair, some wore make up others did not. These women did not embody globalised standards of beauty (figure, complexion, features, and age) they were dressed and groomed by their own individual choices and capacity, yet they all looked nice. Community television can be a source of pride and inspiration for local women and men, because they see themselves portrayed in the moderators on screen. Rural life seldom appears on national television. Community television puts the interests of local people in the forefront. This could be seen clearly in Camunare Rojo TV’s emphasis on farming, land and machinery credits, and other country-life matters. People involved in local community groups, like schools and churches, produce Lara Tve’s programs, so their themes are influenced by or about the activities of these groups. TV Caricuao’s programs are tied to developments, events and activities that directly affect the parish. In community media the “dominant culture” is the local community’s way of life, traditions, festivals, language (expressions) and issues.
Community television in Venezuela shares the essential purpose of worldwide alternative media: giving local people control over information and communication sources, conserving traditional practices and values, and allowing alternative creative expression. But the Venezuelan experience is unusual because, unlike most alternative media in other countries, its main financial, structural and ideological support comes from the state itself, and not from churches, universities, NGOs or international institutions. This support frees the stations from the whims and demands of foreign agents, but ties them to the current political process Venezuela is going through. These stations have arisen and built their identity within the Revolutionary framework, but aim to achieve financial independence and individual personality. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the future, particularly given the volatile socio-political and economic circumstances of Venezuela, especially with rapid changes in the price of petroleum. Community television’s survival will greatly depend on the people’s capacity to adapt to political and technological changes and use them in favour of their stations. Because community television belongs to the community and not to the people who are in charge of the station at any given moment, adaptation could mean a change of hands. Presently, those at the helm have given the project their best effort, although it tends to be confined by Revolutionary ideology. Without the hard work and vision of the coordinators, these community stations would not last the trials and tribulations of setting up such a complex endeavour as television, without anticipation of personal financial gain or the privileges of hiring ready-trained personnel. I feel that if anything community television is a reflection of those who participate in its makings: coordinators, as well as producers and operations staff. The dynamics between all the
individuals that worked in the stations were respectful, cheerful and positive. It was a true learning opportunity for many who might otherwise not have access to formal training in television. These stations were also an instrument to incorporate people into other community projects and create networks within the community. The only drawback I felt was the large number of community members who – for obvious reasons - saw the stations as Chavistas and, therefore, rejected them.xx If I have any recommendations, it would be for the stations to find a way of incorporating a more heterogeneous sample of the community, not only politically, but also participants who may have alternative views on sexuality, art, modes of production, and spirituality, as well as from different economic strata, recent immigrants, and others. This will enrich community television on creative and social levels. Coordinators should try to create spaces for those who do not support the Revolution but would like to use the television station. By toning down their political obedience and loyalty to the current regime, they could tear down the barriers between Chavistas and non-Chavistas, and encourage the integration of the community based on shared interests rather than promoting specific sectarian agendas. The stations can then work together with the whole community on improving living standards and communication, as part of striving towards social justice. The possibilities of further study on community television in Venezuela are numerous and varied. There are the obvious comparisons between community television and State and commercial stations. Delving in the past one can compare today’s structures with those set up within the educational and religious frameworks, some of which are still functioning and others that have closed down. Presently, community television is at such a dynamic stage of experimentation and growth that it is well worth doing in depth work focusing on the people, the programs, or regional differences, just to name a few possibilities. To project them into the
Conclusion future, one could ask many questions, some linked to current
Revolutionary solutions to the country’s problems. For instance, one could study the possibility of community television forming part of a parallel society (a tertiary sector) in Venezuela, one with its own production, educational, social and communicational structures. With regards to technology there is the question of how the Internet will affect the future of community television: will it complement it or supplant it? And finally there is the question of whether or not community-based stations will succeed as an instrument of social change. With this project I hope I have been able to provide outsiders with a more tangible feeling for the social readjustments that are going on in Venezuela. National and international media have projected the situation as an irreconcilable debate between two factions: Opposition against Chavistas; capitalists against socialists and communists; oligarchs and bourgeois against the pueblo. It is easy to stand on either side of the debate. It is very difficult to express a moderate or unaligned opinion from within. So thankfully I have had this opportunity to study my own country from outside. Writing a project for a foreign university provided a level of disengagement that allowed me to move freely in this political minefield without being asked about my motivations or allegiances. It was understood that I was there to observe and study the work of the people in community television without looking to criticize or evaluate them. It is to the people at TV Caricuao, Camunare Rojo TV and Lara Tve that I would like to express my utmost gratitude and admiration. Gratitude for their friendliness, hospitality and confidence in allowing me to be a participant-observer in their midst, as well as for answering my questions and sharing their personal and collective experiences in community television. Admiration for their vision, courage, hard-work and sensibility for their communities.
Plaza Francia is one of the main squares of an affluent commercial and living area of Caracas, which has served as a public gathering space for leaders and followers of the opposition (those who oppose Chávez’s government). The petition handed out for people to sign read as follows: Citizens. President and other members of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights The office We, the people who have signed below are appealing to the rightful application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, as a means to emphatically reject the aggressions to freedom of speech and the right to be informed in a real, truthful and suitable way, displayed through the current actions of the Venezuelan authorities, whereby they show the true authoritarian nature of a government that crushes all forms of democratic action. The unjustified arrogance and wielding of power by the Executive [Presidential] power against the media station called RADIO CARACAS TELEVISION, announcing that it will be closing, represents a clear threat to the independent exercise of journalism, unprecedented in any democratic system in Latin American or the world. This action also is an evident threat to freedom of speech in general, transforming it into a negative action that could extend itself to other media institutions in Venezuela that do not comply to reproduce the “OFFICIAL TRUTH”.
The document has a space for peoples name and surname, identity card number and signature. Fourth Estate: a term to describe the media’s position to publicize and evaluate political issues. Clientelism: is system whereby those who hold a position of political or bureaucratic power, grant favours to other citizens in exchange for electoral support.
v iv iii
Aló Presidente (Hello, President) Chávez’s Sunday morning program where he converses with the people, they can phone in to ask questions. It is broadcast live on state radio and television. The use of the term Indio (Indian) “applied to the long-time inhabitants of America, and to their descendants who are not mixed with any other race” (Crespo, 2004), has fallen in and out of favor tied to the political currents of the time. Currently it has been revived (Rojas, 2007) as a liberating term, as in the words of Don Constantino Lima: “Como indios nos han conocidos y como indios nos vamos a liberar” (As indians they have known us and as Indians we will free ourselves) (Don Constantino Lima, in Crespo, 2004). La Gran Colombia was a union of Nueva Granada (what is now Colombia), Venezuela and Ecuador, with Bolívar as president.
Art. 69 of the 1947 Constitution specified that ‘The State will undertake a planned and systematic program, oriented to transform the national agrarian structure, to systematize agricultural and stock-raising development, to organize and distribute credit, to improve living conditions in the rural medium and the progressive economic and social emancipation of the peasant population. A special law will determine technical and other conditions…’ The October 1948 Agrarian Reform Law was designed to carry out this constitutional mandate. (Lieuwen, 1961: 84)
Punto Fijo, was the name of COPEI leader Rafael Caldera’s house where this group of politicians met to discuss the agreement.
The passage quoted in the text appears in the context of a longer explanation taken from Chavez’s speech on public television following his capture in 1992: First I want to say good morning to all the people of Venezuela, but this Bolivarian message is directed specifically to the courageous soldiers of the parachute regiment of Aragua and the tank regiment of Valencia. Comrades: unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That’s to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have preformed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again and the country will be able to move definitely towards a better future. So listen to what I have to say, listen to commander Chávez who is sending you this message, and, please, think deeply, Lay down your arms, for in truth the objectives that we set ourselves at a national level are not within our grasp. Comrades, listen to this message of solidarity. I am grateful for your loyalty, for your courage, and for your selfless generosity; before the country and before you, I alone shoulder the responsibility for this Bolivarian military uprising. Thank you. (Gott, 2005: 67)
IV República or the Fourth Republic: designates the 40 year democratic period starting from the Pacto de Punto Fijo in 1958 up until 1998. 2001 Special Law of Cooperative Associations (Ley Especial de Asociaciones Cooperativas) published in the Official Gazette Nº 37.285.
Socialismo del Siglo XXI: “XXI Century Socialism and Participative Democracy” is Heinz Dieterich’s (2005) theory on how society and institutions can evolve into a postbourgeois and postcapitalist civilization. Chávez’s government is divulging and building on the concept of XXI Century Socialism, adapting it to the particular needs and idiosyncrasies of Venezuela.
'“Despertamos con el grito suave de nuestra conciencia creadora A través de imágenes y sonidos de nuestro pueblo; Historia, Luchas y Vivencias que empiezan a dibujar caminos de esperanzas, caminos de ensueños. Con la mirada y la Voz Liberadora del Campesino de mi pueblo” “Camunare Rojo TV”' (Camunare Rojo TV banner, located at studio, in Camunare Rojo TV station)
In Venezuela, basic or minimum wage is a set national standard for all industries, and is usually quoted on the total earnings for a one month period.
Motores de Poder: The five “Motors of Power” is the name given to the transforming guidelines in political, social, economic, military and ethical issues proposed by Chávez (see Glossary for more details). I include this comment to summarise a sentiment I heard expressed by others. I have not done an elaborate investigation on this matter; all the incidents of corruption I am aware of I have heard through word of mouth, or read or heard about in the media.
Women in their fifties and sixties, retired teachers and secretaries, well dressed, some gold jewellery, sometimes do charity-work with the Catholic church.
These shops are common in this area because it is close to Sorte, a sacred mountain where the Venezuelan Indian deity María Lionza is venerated. Chavistas: Chávez supporters.
Local and “Bolivarian” terms Barrio: unplanned neighbourhood, usually located on the outskirts or hillsides of cities. Could be compared to a shanty or to the Brazilian favela. Not all barrios are the same, and even within a barrio there can be large discrepancies of living standards (access to water, electricity, transport). The houses in barrios are called ranchos. Campesino: peasant, farmer, countryperson, country-folk. Cacique: South American Indian chief. Caserío: hamlet, small village or settlement. Chavista: Chávez supporter. Clientelism: is system whereby those who hold a position of political or bureaucratic power, grant favours to other citizens in exchange for electoral support. Colectivo: people organized into a collective or group under a registered name. Comunicador Popular: Popular Communicator. Is the name given to people who work in community media as reporters, journalists, producers, and moderators who have not completed the degree in Social Communication. Comunicador Social: Social Communicator, journalists, reporters, or any person who has a degree in Media Studies. It is a title acquired through studying a five-year undergraduate degree course in Media Studies called Comunicación Social (Social Communication). Criollo: a person born in Latin America of European parents. Also used to designate traditional Venezuelan objects, music or cuisine. El Proceso: the Process. Refers to the revolutionary or social change process proposed by Chávez. Libertador: liberator. Term given to Simón Bolívar for freeing several Latin American countries from Spanish domination in the 19th Century. Metro: underground train or subway.
Glossary Misiones: Missions are action plans or ongoing operatives that the Bolivarian Revolution uses to alleviate mainly the public health and education scarcity problem.
Motores del Poder: The five “Motors of Power” is the name given to the transforming guidelines in political, social, economy, military and ethical issues of the National Project Simón Bolívar, proposed by Chávez (2007). The five motors are: 1. Enabling Law: through which the National Assembly authorizes the President to issue decrees-laws in the Council of Ministers. 2. Constitutional Reform. [Was declined by referendum in December 2007]. 3. Moral and Lights: instilling values, culture and solidarity at all levels of education (school and within society). 4. New Geometry of Power: rearrangement of the nation’s geopolitics, for example council boundaries and budgets. This is supposed curtail bureaucratic mismanagement. 5. Explosion of the Popular Power: following geopolitical rearrangement, the country will be divided into federal territories managed by the communal councils. Opposition: those who are against Chávez’s Revolutionary movement, and want him removed from the Presidency. It compromises a large heterogenous group of the population, with various political views (from Right to Left), and of different ages and economic strata. They are also sometimes called escuálidos (squalids). Pueblo: small town or village; or the people (of a nation), or the common people. Ranchos: self-made dwellings usually built with no permits. Name given to most of the houses located in barrios. Ranchos characteristically have un-rendered brick walls and sheet metal roofing, but there are great variations in the quality of the construction and materials used, either due to financial circumstances
or dictated by the geography of the area. In spite of their unfinished external appearance many ranchos are fully equipped houses inside. Santería: is the practice of worshiping and believing in the power of the spirits of the saints and other entities. It is fairly complex, as “saints” have different levels and powers and courts of fellowships. It is a mixture of Catholicism, African spirituality and some indigenous elements or personalities. In many cases it is combined with Catholic worship. Socialismo del Siglo XXI: “XXI Century Socialism and Participative Democracy” is Heinz Dieterich’s (2005) theory on how society and institutions can evolve into a postbourgeois and postcapitalist civilization. Chávez’s government is divulging and building on the concept of XXI Century Socialism, adapting it to the particular needs and idiosyncrasies of Venezuela. Telenovela: Latin American soap opera. They are world-renowned and big business.
1BC: 1 Broadcasting Caracas. Conglomerate that owns RCTV. AD: Acción Democrática (Democratic Action). Founded in 1941, by Rómulo Betancourt and others. ALBA: Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) Is a proposed alternative to the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA, ALCA in its Spanish initials), differing from the latter in that it advocates a socially-oriented trade block rather than one strictly based on the logic of deregulated profit maximization. (Arreaza, 2004) CIDH (IACHR): Comisión Internamericana de Derechos Humanos (Inter-American Commission of Human Rights) is an autonomous organ of the OAS. CONATEL: Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (National Telecommunications Commission). Part of the Ministerio de Poder Popular para las Telecomunicaciones y la Informática (Ministry of Telecommunications and Computing). COPEI: Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente
(Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee). Founded in 1946 by Rafael Caldera, COPEI is known as the Social Christian Party, and although is represented by the color green, is not affiliated to “the Greens”.
LCR: La Causa Radical (The Radical Cause). Political party started by metallurgy industry trade unions in Bolívar State, in 1971. MAS: Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Towards Socialism). Left wing party formed in 1971. MBR-200: Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario 200 (Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200). Subversive political party created by Chávez and group of young officers in 1983 (year which marked the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Simón Bolívar, hence the
number 200). MBR-200 amalgamated into the MVR - which includes civilians - during the 1998 elections. MINCI: Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Comunicación y la Información (Ministry of Communications and Information) MVR: Movimiento Quinta República (Fifth Republic Movement) ODC: Organización Diego Cisneros, now Organización Cisneros. OEA: Organización de Estados Americanos (Organization of American States or OAS) PCV: Partido Comunista de Venezuela (Communist Party of Venezuela). Founded 70 years ago, the members of PCV engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government in the 1960s because the party was outlawed by ADs Rómulo Betancourt. The PCV backed Hugo Chávez in the 1998 elections. RCTV: Radio Caracas Televisión, was one of Venezuela’s main commercial television station that broadcasted nationally on open television until May 2007. Now can be seen on cable or satellite. SUNACOOP: Superentendencia Nacional de Coopertivas (National Superintendence of Cooperatives). Set up within the 1966 Cooperative Associations Law, SUNACOOP is the institution in charge of regulating the activities of Venezuelan cooperatives. UCAB: Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Andrés Bello Catholic Univeristy). UCV: Universidad Central de Venezuela (Central University of Venezuela). ULA: Universidad de los Andes (University of the Andes). UNESR: Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez (Simon Rodriguez National Experimental University). URD: Unión Republicana Democrática (Democratic Republican Union). Political party founded in 1945 by Elías Toro and Jóvito Villalba.
References Books and journals
Alvarado Chacín, Neritza (2004): ‘Pobreza y exclusión en Venezuela a la luz de las misiones sociales (2003-2004)’. FERMENTUM Revista Venezolana de Sociología y Antropología, April 2004, vol.14, no.39, pp. 181-232. Baldelli, Giovanni (1971): Social Anarchism. Chicago: Aldine Atherton, Inc. Buxton, Julia (2001): The Failure of Political Reform in Venezuela. The political economy of Latin America series. UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Castro-Klarén, Sara (2003): ‘Framing Pan-Americanism: Simón Bolívar’s Findings’. The New Centennial Review, 3.1 (2003), pp 2553. De Ferranti, David; Perry, Guillermo E; Ferreira, Francisco H. G. and Walton, Michael (2004): Inequality in Latin America. Breaking with History? Washington D.C: The World Bank. Derham, Michael (2002): ‘Undemocratic Democracy: Venezuela and the Distorting of History’. Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 270-289. Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn (1998): ‘Ethics’. In H. Russell Bernard, ed: Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, pp. 173-202. Gott, Richard (2005): Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. London: Verso. Gumucio Dagron, Alfonso (2001): Making Waves. Stories of Participatory Communication for Social Change. New York: The Rockefeller Foundation. Gumucio Dagron, Alfonso (2003): ‘Follow the Heartbeat. Guiding Principles of Community Television’. MEDIAFORUM Special Edition 2/3 (2003), pp. 18-22. Habermas, Jürgen (1962): The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. An Inquiry into a category of Bourgeois Society. Trans. Thomas Burger with Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.
Hallin, Daniel C. (2000): ‘Media, political power, and democratisation in Mexico’. In Curran, James and Park Myung-Jin, eds: DeWesternizing Media Studies. London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 97-110. Hawkins, Kirk A. and Hansen, David R. (2006): ‘Dependent Civil Society. The Círculos Bolivarianos in Venezuela.’ Latin American Research Review, Vol 41, Nº1, February 2006, pp. 102-132. Howley, Kevin (2005): Community Media. People, Places, and Communication Technologies. UK: Cambridge University Press Levi, Yair and Litwin, Howard (1986): Community and Cooperatives in Participatory Development. UK: Gower Publishing Company Limited. Lieuwen, Edwin (1961): Venezuela. London: Oxford University Press. May, Tim (1997): ‘Participant observation: Perspectives and practice’. In Social research: Issues, methods and process. Buckingham: Open University Press, pp.132-155 Mayo, Peter (1999): Gramsci, Freire and Adult Education. Possibilities for Transformative Action. London and NY: Zed Books. McCaughan, Michael (2004): The Battle of Venezuela. London: Latin American Bureau. MINCI (2007): El ALBA: La Gran Batalla contra el Capitalismo donde cada día estaremos más unidos. Caracas: MINCI. Myers, David J (2003): ‘The Normalization of Punto Fijo Democracy’. In McCoy, Jennifer L and Myers, David J (2004) eds: The unraveling of representative democracy in Venezuela. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 11-29. Reglamento de radiodifusión sonora y televisión abierta comunitarias de servicio público sin fines de lucro (2001). Official Gazette Nº 37.359 January 8, 2002. Decree Nº 1521 November 3, 2001. Venezuela Rennie, Ellie (2006): Community Media. A Global Introduction. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Rodríguez, Francisco (2004): ‘Proceso sociopolítico actual y subjetividad en Venezuela’. FERMENTUM Revista Venezolana de Ciencias Sociales, July-December, year/vol. 8, 002, pp. 257-266.
Schirber, Martin E. OSB. (1945): ‘Cooperatives and the Problem of Poverty’. The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol.6, No.1, (Mar., 1945), pp. 13-22 Shragge, Eric (2003): Activism and Social Change. Lessons from community and local organizations. Canada: Broadview Press. Studdert, David (2005): Conceptualising Community. Beyond the State and Individual. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Vilas, Carlos M (2003): ‘Between Market Democracies and Capitalist Globalization: Is There Any Prospect for Social Revolution in Latin America?’ In Foran, John, ed: The Future of Revolutions. Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization. London: Zed Books, 2003, pp. 95-106. Waisbord, Silvio (2000): ‘Media in South America’. In Curran, James and Park, Myung-Jin, eds: De-Westernising Media Studies. London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 50-62. Wiarda, Howard J (2005): Dilemmas of Democracy in Latin America. Crisis and Opportunity. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Alcaldía de Barquisimeto (not dated): Medios comunitarios y alternativos – Lara Tve. http://www.alcaldiadebarquisimeto.gov.ve/iribarren/laratv.html (Accessed November 7, 2007) Arreaza, Teresa (2004): “ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean”. Venezuelanalysis.com http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/docs.php?dno=1010 (Accessed July 19, 2007) BBC News (2007): “US condemns Venezuelan TV closure”. June 5, 2007.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6721167.stm (Accessed June 7, 2007) Bracci Roa, Luigino (2007) ‘Realizado el foro “Hacia la televisión que queremos” sobre el uso de la señal de RCTV y otros temas’. Blogspot: El Espacio de Lubrio: January 24, 2007. http://lubrio.blogspot.com/2007/01/realizado-el-foro-hacia-latelevisin.html(Accessed January 16, 2008)
CENSO 2001 (2002): Distrito Capital. Primeros Resultados XIII Censo General de Población y Vivienda. November 2002. Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Venezuela http://www.ine.gov.ve/censo/fichascenso/tiro.asp?cod_entidad=1 (Accessed October 23, 2007) Chávez Frías, Hugo Rafael (2007): “All the Constituent Motors to the Maximum Revolution… Towards Socialism!” Compilation of Chávez’s speeches from January 8, 10 and 17, 2007. Published by MINCI. http://archivos.minci.gob.ve/doc/dipticos_5_motores_inglesw.pdf (Accessed Ocotober 12, 2007). Colectivo Ana Soto (2002): “Voces Urgentes. Red de Medios Alternativos en Barquisimeto Venezuela”. Available from: ANIA http://ania.urcm.net/noticia.php3?id=2729&idcat=10&idamb=3 (Accessed July 12, 2007) CONATEL: Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones. República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Part of MINCI, Ministerio del Poder Popular para las Telecomunicaciones y la Informática. http://www.conatel.gob.ve> (Accessed June 5, 2007) a. <http://www.conatel.gov.ve/faq_Comunitarias.htm> (Accessed September 23, 2007) b. Medios Comunitarios Habilitados http://www.conatel.gov.ve/downloads/comunitarias/ Medios_comunitarios_habilitados03-08-05.pdf (Accessed September 25, 2007) and http://www.conatel.gob.ve/downloads/ comunitarias/Medios_comunitarios_habilitados_abril_2006.pdf (Accessed February 9, 2008) Consejos Comunales (2007). Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Participación y Protección Social (Social protection and participation Ministry) http://www.consejoscomunales.gob.ve/index.php?option=com_conte nt&task=view&id=20&Itemid=34 (Accessed July 20, 2007) Crespo, Román (2004): [aymara] “El término indio” <http://www.aymara.org/lista/archivo2004/msg00407.html> (Accessed May 31, 2007) Deronne, Thierry (2003): “Camunare Rojo TV, primera televisora campesina de América”. Published on Aporrea 11/09/03. Accessed at: Rebelión http://www.rebelion.org/otromundo/030911camunare.htm (Accessed November 16, 2007)
References Dieterich, Heinz (not dated): “Socialismo del Siglo XXI”. Rebelion http://www.rebelion.org/dieterich/dieterich070802.pdf (Accessed February 19, 2008)
Dieterich, Heinz (2005): “The World Revolution Advances Through Hugo Chavez”. (Rebelion 26/03/2005). Translation John Manning. Accessed at: http://reality.gn.apc.org/econ/chavez2.html (Accessed February 19, 2008) Globovisión: http://www.globovision.com/ (Accessed February 26, 2008) Hernández, Tulio (1999): "La felicidad sí existe". El Nacional. 19/09/1999. http://www.analitica.com/bitblioteca/tulio/felicidad.asp (Accessed September 25, 2007) Herrera, Francia; Romero, Milagros; Valdespino, Lisbeth and Vivas, Nelly (not dated): “Desarrollo de la televisión en Venezuela”. Caracas. <http://www.monografias.com/trabajos13/televis/televis.shtml> (Accessed August 26, 2007) Ley Orgánica de Telecomunicaciones (Organic Law of Telecommunications) (2000). Published Official Gazette Nº 36970, June 12, 2000. Venezuela. Can be accessed at http://www.conatel.gov.ve/deley.htm (Accessed September 25, 2007) “Libro Blanco Sobre RCTV” (2007). Published by MINCI. http://archivos.minci.gob.ve/doc/libro_blanco_RCTV-Web.pdf (Accessed January 15, 2008) MINCI: Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Comunicación y la Información (Communications and Information Ministry) <http://www.minci.gov.ve>(Accessed June 14, 2007) a. Cancillería (2007): “Proyectos grannacionales del Alba permitirán avance productivo, cultural y social”. News, National, July 16, 2007. Accessed at: <http://www.minci.gov.ve/noticias/1/14812/proyectos_granna cionales_del.html> (Accessed July 17, 2007) b. Ley Resorte: Ley de responsabilidad social en radio y television (Radio and television social responsibility law) http://www.leyresorte.gob.ve/index.asp> (Accessed September 23, 2007) c. Aló Presidente. http://www.alopresidente.gob.ve/ (Accessed January 14, 2008)
Misiones Bolivarianas: “Misiones” http://www.misionesbolivarianas.gob.ve. (Accessed August 26, 2007) Monsonyi, Esteban Emilio: “Población Indígena. Historia”. Available from: Gobierno en linea http://www.gobiernoenlinea.ve/venezuela/perfil_historia6.html - > (Accessed June 28, 2007) Podur, Justin (2005): VENEZUELA- Community TV, Interview with Blanca Eekhout, Director of Vive TV. AlterInfos http://www.alterinfos.org/spip.php?article55 (Accessed September 25, 2007) RCTV a. (2007): <http://www.rctv.net> (Accessed May 29, 2007) b. (2008): Programs: http://www.rctv.net/Programacion/ Programacion.aspx (Accessed February 26, 2008) “Social Missions” (not dated). From the website of the Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Relations Ministry): Canadian Embassy. http://www.misionvenezuela.org/ingles/misiones /index.htm (Accessed August 26, 2007) SUNACOOP (Superintendencia Nacional de Cooperativas) (2007): “La Cooperativa”. http://www.sunacoop.gob.ve/link201.html (Accessed August 10, 2007) Televen http://www.televen.com/. (Accessed February 14, 2008) Tves (Televisora Venezolana Social)http://www.tves.org.ve/nuestrosprogramas/10 (Accessed February 27, 2008) ULA (Not dated): Indicadores Socio-Demográficos Censos 1990 y 2001. Características Estructurales: Población. ULA or Universidad de los Andes: http://iies.faces.ula.ve/Censo2001/IndicadoresSocio Demograficos/indic_carac_estruc_pob.htm (Accessed June 28, 2007) Vale TV (Valores Educativos Televisión): http://www.valetv.com/ (Accessed September 28, 2007) Venevisión (2005): El Canal, Historia http://www.venevision.net/ (Accessed July 22, 2007)
References (2008) Programs http://www.venevision.net/programas/programas.asp (Accessed February 26, 2008) VIVE TV a. Vive TV (not dated) http://www.vive.gob.ve/ (Accessed February 9, 2008)
b. Tv Comunitaria “Lara TVe” I. http://www.vive.gob.ve/capitulos.php?id_p=25&id_c=154&ano =&mes=&mostrar=palabra_clave&pag=1 (Accessed December 20, 2007) c. Televisora Comunitaria Campesina “Camunare Rojo TV”
(Accessed December 20, 2007) d. Comunicando. http://www.vive.gob.ve/programas.php?id_p=25 (Accessed January 5, 2008) Voces Urgentes a. Voces Urgentes, blogspot (not dated) http://vocesurgentesanmcla.blogspot.com (Accessed June 14, 2007) b. Voces Urgentes (January 20, 2007): “De toma a control social: Primer Centro del Poder Comunal (CPC) de Venezuela”. Available from Aporrea: http://www.aporrea.org/medios/n89428.html (Accessed December 11, 2007) c. Voces Urgentes (January 23, 2007): “Centro del Poder Comunal en Barquisimeto: ‘La rebeldía es característica del poder constituyente’” Available from Aporrea: http://www.aporrea.org/poderpopular/n89568.html (Accessed December 14, 2007) VTV (Venezolana de Televisión): http://www.vtv.gob.ve/VTV(reload)/quienes_somos.php?p=1 (Accessed September 28, 2007)
Interviews and correspondence
• • Azuaje, Richard (2007): coordinator of Lara Tve Bermúdez, Flor (2006): coordinator of Apure Tv (telephone interview) • • • De Stefano, María (2007): coordinator of TV Caricuao Durán, Wendy (2007): Coordinator of Camunare Rojo TV Durant, Werling (2007): Coordinator and production manager of Camunare Rojo TV. • • Mena, Rafael (2007): revolutionary composer and musician. Rojas, Gerardo (2007): coordinator of Voces Urgentes (personal interviews and email correspondence). • Uzcátegui, Arnell Carolina (2007): Analista de Asuntos Sociales, Gerencia de Acompañamiento Técnico (Social Matters Analyst, Department of Technical Support), CONATEL. • • Weissman (2007): master control operator at Lara Tve. Interview with member of a consejo comunal in Caricuao (2007). • Interviews with members of Cooperativa Mixta Aracal (2007).
Colloquiums and classes
• El Poder Popular y la transformación de Caracas (February 14, 2007). At the Centro Cultural Chacao, Caracas. http://www.chacao.gov.ve/noticiasdetail.asp?Id=2271 Speakers: • Evans, Nicmer Graterón, Emilio Hernández, Tulio Mascarreño, Carlos
Comunicación alternativa (February 24, 2007). At TV Caricuao, Caracas. Classes by: Jesús Blanco, María de Stefan, Sara Nazoa and Ana Mercedes Viloria.
Venezuela’s national television stations Information obtained from their websites, listed under each channel’s name in Internet references. Commercial television
Venevisión (channel 4) Venevisión’s motto is “Pure entertainment”. Their core programs are telenovelas (soap operas) and variety shows. Now that RCTV is off the air Venevisión has no rivals in its category, and can claim undoubtedly to be Venezuela’s most watched television station. Venevisión’s parent company is Organización Cisneros, which belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Venezuela. Aside from Venevisión, Organización Cisneros has several other national and international television stations, a cable television company, a satellite, several consumer product industries (food, beer), and even holds concessions in gold mining. A story of rags to riches, Don Diego Cisneros, the founder of ODC started-off as an ice cream vendor after emigrating from Cuba, and built up his commercial empire using his shrewd and ruthless business sense. RCTV (former channel 2, now on cable) RCTV and Venevisión held a long-standing rivalry because they provide very similar entertainment. But currently RCTV can only be seen on cable or satellite, because the government refused to renew its open broadcasting concession in 2007 (yet did renew Venevisión’s). RCTV is appealing this decision, and also claims that the government has taken possession of some of its broadcasting equipment. RCTV is owned by Empresas 1BC, a corporation founded in 1920 by William Phelps, and currently headed by Marcel Granier as CEO.
Televen (channel 10) Launched in 1988, Televen provides sightly alternative viewing from its commercial counterparts RCTV and Venevisión, with more imported programs, like US series and Brazilian telenovelas. In their repertoire of “opinion” programs there is one called “José Vicente HOY”, hosted by José Vicente Rangel, who held several key positions in Chávez’s government, including that of Vice President. Globovisión (UHF channel 33 and cable) Can be seen in Caracas, Zulia and Carabobo. Launched in 1994, Globovisión specializes in news and information. The station is associated with several Venezuelan regional channels, and international channels, like CNN’s Spanish network. Globovisión has gained the animosity of the government for similar reasons as RCTV, related to the events of April 2002 and negative attitudes towards government decisions. Vale TV (channel 5, only Caracas) Channel 5 originally broadcasted Venezuela’s first state television station called Televisora Nacional (National Television station). It closed down in the early 90s, and was taken over by the Catholic Church in 1998 and relaunched as a not-for-profit civil association called Valores Educativos Televisión (Educational Values Television). Vale TV is an educational channel with up-to-date documentaries and some national productions. They group their programs into four knowledge groups: Arts, History, Geography, and Science and Technology.
State television stations
Venezolana de Televisión (channel 8) Channel 8 started broadcasting in 1964 as a privately owned channel called Cadena Venezolana de Television (Venezuelan Network Television). Following financial difficulties it was purchased by the state in 1974 and renamed Venezolana de Televisión (VTV). Its focus has largely been on national interests, culture, education, local issues and local productions, but has also served as a promotional tool for governments. Vive TV (UHF channel 21 in Caracas, channel varies by city) Vive was launched in 2004 by the Chávez government. It combines the idea of “public access television” where common citizens can participate in production through community media or as independent producers, with that of socialist “people-empowering” media. Community media has strong ties with Vive. Tves (channel 2) Televisora Venezolana Social (Venezuelan Social Television station) was inaugurated following the closing of RCTV on channel 2. Its programs include national and Latin American productions, from documentaries and cultural programs to telenovelas.
Description of various government Missions
Information obtained from Alvarado (2004), and the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry (Social Missions, not dated) and MINCI (Misiones Bolivarias, not dated) websites. Education Misión Robinson: Literacy and numeracy program for adults and young people over the age of 15. Launched May 2003, and reportedly achieved its aim - teaching 1 million Venezuelans to read and write - by December of that same year. It is also known as the Plan Extraordinario de Alfabetización Simón Rodríguez (Extraordinary Literacy Plan Simón Rodríguez). Simón Rodríguez was one of Simón Bolívar’s mentors, and sometimes used the pseudonym “Samuel Robinson”. Misión Ribas: Provides remedial high school level classes aimed to encourage the five million Venezuelan high school dropouts to obtain their high school diploma and improve their job prospects. It is named after independence hero José Félix Ribas. Misión Sucre: Provides tertiary level education to high school graduates who have not found placement in traditional public universities or cannot afford the fees of private ones. Programs are tailored to the local needs and industries of the area. Antonio José de Sucre was one of the most prominent Venezuelan independence heroes, battling Spanish forces in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Misión Vuelvan Caras: (Mission Turn-to-Face or Turn Faces) Aims to involve economically marginalized sectors of the population in programs of endogenous and sustainable social development. Envisioned originally for the participants of Ribas, Robinson, Sucre and Miranda missions,
Appendix C Misión Vuelvan Caras has mainly evolved in agricultural and heavy industry areas, where it has been easier to group people into cooperatives and collectives, and set up the infrastructure for collaborative production practices in the form of local development
zones known as NUDE or Núcleos de Desarrollo Endógeno (Endogenous Development Nuclei). The mission was launched in February 2004. "Vuelvan Caras" refers to an order given by independence war hero José Antonio Páez to his soldiers, to turn-to-face the royalist troops who had them cornered in order to confuse them, a tactic that saw them through victoriously (Alvarado, 2004). Misión Cultura: (Culture Mission). Promotes creative cultural expression through various art forms. This Mission aims to consolidate national identity, promote social justice and human development, and construct the conscience and historical memory of the nation in order to build a democratic and participative society. Food MERCAL: Mercados de alimentos (food markets). MERCALs are mobile and permanent commercial food markets that sell their goods directly to consumers at affordable prices. They also sell generic medicines and other basic products. Health Misión Barrio Adentro: (Mission Into the Neighbourhood or Within the Barrio). Provides free health care, dental care and sports training to residents of hard to reach communities, like barrios and isolated rural areas. The doctors must reside in or close to the clinic in order to be available 24 hours a day in case of an emergency. Barrio Adentro's actual focus is not on emergency care, but rather preventive health
care, diagnostics, and social work. According to Contreras (in Alvarado, 2004) Barrio Adentro provides medical assistance to 15 million people who have limited or no access public and private medical institutions. Housing Misión Habitat: Build houses for the most needy, and develop integrated housing zones that provide a range of social services, like education and healthcare. Specific groups of people Misión Guaicaipuro: Attend the issues of the Amerindian peoples of Venezuela. These issues differ from those of the rest of the population regarding certain matters, like land and inhabitation rights. Launched in October 2003. Guaicaipuro is the name of a famous 16th Century Venezuelan cacique (native chief). Misión Piar: Develop the sustainability of small miner communities in order to improve their living standards. Manuel Carlos Piar was a General in the Venezuelan war of independence. Misión Negra Hipólita: Protect and provide shelter for homeless children, youngsters and adults. Launched in January 2006. Hipólita was Simón Bolívar's nursemaid. Misión Zamora: Transfer land tenure to peasants and small farmers and help them develop and sell their harvests. Through the Mission farmers receive land titles, credits and machinery in order to work the land. Ezequiel Zamora fought in the Venezuelan civil war of the 1840s and 50s, and proposed a program to transform the country's rural economy in favour of the needs of the peasants (Gott, 2005).
Misión Miranda: A military reserve composed of ordinary Venezuelan citizens. Francisco de Miranda was a revolutionary and precursor of the war of independence. Environment Misión Árbol: (Mission Tree). Create environmental awareness and restore damaged parks through tree planting programs. Launched June 2006. Misión Revolución Energética: (Mission Energy Revolution). Setting up green energy industries, like solar and wind, and regulating energy consumption. Launched in November 2006, it has started by distributing 52 million free energy-saver globes to Venezuelan homes. This mission has been launched with Cuba as an intermediary, and has been surrounded by controversy, speculation and rumours. From people questioning additional financial costs incurred from buying the light bulbs from Cuba instead of directly from China (where they are made), to suspecting that the light bulbs contain surveillance devices, or that the Cubans that distribute them are in actual fact surveying how many rooms each household has.
A view of Caricuao from the hillside
TV Caricuao/UNESR building
Recording in studio
Por Dentro y Por Fuera production team
TV Caricuao's video archive
Interviews at PCV conference
Camunare Rojo TV
Camunare Rojo TV station. Back view shows the bricks made by the station's team and volunteers from Misión Vuelvan Caras.
Pre-production of youth program Interacción Juvenil
Wendy and César interviewing a farmer in Nuare
Aracal cooperative farm
Lara Tve station and antenna are located in the CPC
Children get to participate in many aspects of program production
Master control. Most programs are aired live
Live from the studio
Appendix G Appendix G Fieldnotes on El Vegón
Summarised extract from my fieldnotes on our visit to El Vegón. Related to chapter 220.127.116.11.Programs and production on Camunare Rojo TV. Today César and I went up to El Vegón along with two council policemen (armed with guns), a lady from Barrio Bolivar, and four public servants (Lucrania: director of Social Development, Pablo: MD for Social Development, William: driver, and Arelis: in charge of environmental issues). We went to investigate who is burning areas up in the sierra, because they are affecting the water supply of the inhabitants down below, particularly of Barrio Bolivar. “The national guards will arrive when the corn is already sown”, says William jokingly, referring to the fact that the National Guard has not gone up to investigate, and has not responded to the council reports on the problem. We stop to pick up a representative of the concejo comunal of Barrio Bolivar. “We’re not going up there to be in danger”, she says apprehensively about going to confront the people who are burning the forest. The public employees, and particularly Arelis, try to convince her to come along with us: it’s important that a representative of the affected consejo comunal come along, to see, talk, etc. The lady fidgets nervously with her blouse as she decides; finally she goes in her house, gets changed and hops in the jeep. “How’s the corn?” César asks her. “They still haven’t planted it, they are going to plant in April”, she replies. When someone suggested that her community council should join forces with another to address the water issue she says: “…they won’t support us because they get their water from (another source)”. Barrio Bolivar is a new neighbourhood with few and very spread out houses. As we ride up the steep hill, William keeps cracking jokes, which pretty much calms the lady down. “Everything is with the community
council,” says Lucrania. She, William, and the doctor are actually going up to get together with the people from the consejo communal of El Vegón to discuss some other matter. As we get to the end of the road, close to where they think the burning is taking place, a donkey announces our arrival, but no one comes out of the only house close by. We start walking down a track to see if it takes us to the burnt area. Someone asks the policeman if he has got the safety off his gun, if he is prepared for a confrontation, the policeman says the gun does not have a safety lock. César says to me: “they don’t do it to be bad… the government gives them money so they get organized into cooperatives and plant stuff… sometimes it’s ambition…” He is explaining that the farmers that live up in the sierra burn the area to clear it in order to grow their produce. Apparently the government has given them seeds, money and tools in order to help them grow more produce. He says that sometimes they go overboard: “ambition”, and are not careful. “We are country folk, we know nothing about the ozone layer…” says César, empathising with the situation because his family are also farmers. We walk down the hill a little while, and Arelis looks around trying to identify the area that has been burnt. César records some of the scenery; down below we can see way beyond Camunare Rojo and Urachiche. Suddenly we realize that we have ticks crawling all over us. We run back up the path to the road. The three government employees drive off along another road to their meeting. The owner of the house has arrived, she is a sturdy woman about 60 years old, she’s just been to get some wood for her stove, and is now milling corn in the pilón (mortar). Arelis, César the lady from Barrio Bolivar and one of the policemen go down another track looking for the fire culprits. I stay behind with the other police officer and we chat with Ana, the elderly lady.
Appendix G As we eat the black bean soup and drink the coffee that Ana offered us, she tells us how she came to live in El Vegón, “We’ve spun around more than a top […] from the Andes to Caracas and from Caracas to Nirgua, Aroa, high up in the sierra and now here”. The policeman says it is a good place to live, people close to their environment. He says Urachiche is very dangerous. I ask him if they would be interested in having Camunare Rojo TV accompany them on their rounds (I do not remember if I asked this thinking of a “Cops”
program, or to help resolve the crime issues). He said it would be good to have a visual testimony of events, “I would get the support of the person that goes with me”. The others finally come back; apparently they walked a long way and found Mr. Ramón (a farmer from the sierra), and spoke to him about the problem (see footage on return to station). Arelis tells Ana and her daughter in law (who had arrived later) that they must be careful, that if they clear land and are no longer are going to use it they should plant trees so that it can recover. She also asked about the returns from the credit the government gave them for some caraota (bean) seeds. But according to the two ladies, apparently “no dieron” (the seeds did not yield much produce) because they were inadequate for the climate, they were originally from Monagas State, and it’s too cold in the sierra for these beans. Arelis said she has to write up a report about it. As we go back down the hill she tells me that they will write a report on the issue of the burning, and hope that culprits were scared off by the policeman and do not come back. They are not inhabitants of the sierra.
Appendix H Video View the video on the dvd included at the back of this thesis or on the Internet: www.archive.org/details/CommunityTelevisionInVenezuela This video provides readers with an audiovisual sample of the programs produced by the community television stations in this study. It also illustrates some of the points made in the monograph chapters and allows the reader greater immersion in the project. The sample commences with the opening credits of Comunicando (Communicating), a half hour program on Vive TV that is dedicated to spread the work of the country’s community and alternative media. I obtained the presentation of Comunicando from Camunare Rojo TV. It is followed by footage from Camunare Rojo TV. The first part is an interschool sports event that took place in the village of Nuarito, captured on video by Miguel (producer and cameraman) and Werling (coordinator). I edited it myself from loose footage. This is a typical example of an event that Camunare Rojo TV considers important to cover because it involves combined community efforts and the local children. The second video is a follow up program Camunare Rojo TV did about a group of people setting up a cooperative farm. This program is a few of years old, and dates before the station went on air. It includes many aspects farm life, and also people talk about cooperative farming and socialism. It is a good example of the type of camera work and audiovisual style they use at Camunare Rojo TV. This program is not complete as I cut some of it out to make it shorter for the sample. I was not able to obtain samples of the live studio programs produced at Lara Tve because their recording machine was not working. In its place I made a collage of some still photographs I took of in-studio programs, namely Pinceladas Venezolanas (Venezuelan Paint-strokes) and Tiempo de Aventura (Time for Adventure), and
inserted background music (Tamunangue). It is followed by promotions for a couple of their programs: Aventura Ecológica (Ecological Adventure), which is about the natural sites of the local area, and Renancer Radiante (Radiant Rebirth), a children’s program produced by a Christian group and moderated by children and puppets. TV Caricuao had a ready-made demonstration video. I tried to include samples of most of their programs, but I did not use all their material so it would not outweigh the other two stations. These promotions cover “Arts and Entertainment”, “News”, “Contact with the Community”, “EP” and a short film called “Miranda through the eyes of a girl”. They did not have a promotion for Por Dentro y Por Fuera. There is also an advertisement for Misión Cultura, which I left in to illustrate the relationship between TV Caricuao, the UNERS and the missions. Following the credits I put some photographs I took of Caracas, Camunare Rojo and la Carucieña during my fieldwork. This is just to add some sites of the country. Most stations are still experimenting with the style and content of their programs, as they figure out what works for their particular community and needs. Therefore not all programs enjoy longevity or continuity, and many of those presented in this video possibly no longer exist. But they are still a valuable illustration of pioneering efforts, and definitely landmark this phase of community television in Venezuela.
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