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the logic of media ownership reform in Venezuela

August 17, 2010

The WSJ reports that Venezuela will ask the United States to extradite Nelson Mezerhane, who ran Banco Federal and owned a 26% stake in Globovisión. The bit that interested me most is this:

Since the conflict arose, the Chavez administration has asked lawmakers to amend legislation that would prevent people who own financial institutions from also owning media companies on the grounds that doing so allows such individuals to manipulate information for personal gain.

By that logic, shouldn’t investors in financial institutions also be barred, since they could also manipulate information for personal gain? Or what about people that own industrial or agricultural enterprises? Couldn’t they also manipulate media outlets for personal gain? If the Chavez administration is indeed seeking such legislation, it should be reconsidered within a larger and more coherent structure of media reform that is less focused on individual actors than systemic patterns. Better yet, though, would be to build out a public (not necessarily state run) media system that will provide alternative sources of information, thus reducing the potential for owners of private outlets to manipulate markets. In my view, community media should play a primary role in that system.

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