RCTV, the Venezuelan network that was pushed off the air by Chavez in 2007, is still a very polarizing subject in Venezuela. Here is an alternative viewpoint, an argument about the public interest, and the government’s role to protect it. Here are arguments supporting the closing. The video, which is about an hour long, was produced by Avila.tv, Panafilms, ANMCLA, and the Foro Itinerante de Participacion Popular, all of which are examples of community media in Venezuela.
To contrast, here is a piece disparaging the documentary The Revolution will not be televised. This one was produced by El Gusano de Luz. It’s about an hour and a half long, but I think that the most interesting parts are right at the beginning, when they denounce The Revolution will not be televised as blatant media manipulation, and the end credits and acknowledgments, which include thank yous to Venevision, RCTV, Televen, and Globovision. All of them are private media companies in Venezuela, so you can really see where the story is heading.
The interesting thing about both videos is the polarizing discourses, and how both, Chavez sympathizers and their opposition, are making use of online media to voice contesting viewpoints. This kind of use is what has made some of us, media junkies, characterize the internet as a public sphere. Mind you, I’m not entirely sold on that argument, but I will accept that there are segments of the Venezuelan public that find a space for debate online. The question is, however, who is listening? who is using this information to make informed decisions? and more importantly, at least for me, is this type of media use fostering debate, or ushering in more polarization?
It’s not impossible to say. More media polarization is on the horizon.
Twitters, Facebookers, and bloggers
Last summer, we watched in awe as Iranians flocked to twitter. This year, however, only Fox News seems to have picked up on the story of the Venezuelan twitterrorists (apparently that’s what Chavez is calling them). Venezuelans have been using Twitter to protest media crackdowns since last year. However, the recent closing of RCTV (no, I don’t mean 2007; I mean January of this year) sparked the latest surge of protest. The Chavez government ordered cable providers to pull RCTV International off the airwaves. The reason? the network violated Venezuelan media law for not broadcasting some of Chavez’s speeches (Daniel, 2010). You can follow the action on twitter, through the hashtag #FreeVenezuela.
This trend is a little bit harder to predict. The Venezuelan Student Movement, which coalesced after the first closing of RCTV, is using the hashtag to mobilize public opinion. However, the international news media have been slow to pick up on the story. As far as I could tell, only FoxNews and the Miami’s Nuevo Herald have reported on the twitter angle. Both stories came out last week, so where’s everyone else? Are we suddenly tired of mass mobilization via Twitter and Facebook? The hashtag is not a trending topic, but wouldn’t that be a chicken and egg argument? I mean, what sparks these stories? is it that things trend and then they get picked up by the media, or is it the other way around?
I’m definitely following this story. It will be interested to see if more mainstream media pick up the Twitter angle, and how it will affect the emerging philosophy of social mobilization. We’re pinning great hopes on electronic media, because we have some examples of how it can be used successfully.