electoral TV ads in Venezuela
Venezuela is in full campaign mode, and the National Electoral Commission (Comisión Nacional Electoral / CNE) seems to be very much on top of things.
The day before the campaign officially began, the CNE affirmed that all digital and alternative [community] media outlets would also have to abide by the CNE’s Law of Publicity and Propaganda (Ley de Publicidad y Propaganda). This is an important statement because supporters of the opposition largely believe that community media outlets are controlled by the Chávez administration and provide an unfair advantage. Of course, it remains to be seen how closely the CNE will monitor those outlets, but the impression I got from CNE Rector Vicente Díaz’s interview with Globovisión (embedded in the page linked above) was that the commission takes its responsibilities seriously.
At the same time, the CNE also announced that electoral publicity will not count as commercial advertising in relation to the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and TV (Ley de Responsabilidad Social en Radio y TV / Ley Resorte). The Ley Resorte specifies that for every hour of programming, no more than 15 minutes can be commercial advertising. Separating electoral from commercial advertising is meant to “allow media outlets to lower their rates, better stimulate participation and promote information from the campaigns” (“posibilitar por un lado a los medios de comunicación bajar las tarifas, estimula más la participación y promueve la información de las ofertas electorales”). This doesn’t sound like a commission beholden to the current government. In fact, the decision benefits commercial broadcasters (including those, like Globovisión, that are staunchly opposed to Chávez’s policies) by allowing them to collect extra revenue, and it benefits opposition parties, who are generally not as tightly organized as the government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela / PSUV), because it provides airtime at more accessible rates.
So which side has taken greater advantage of these lower rates? Yesterday, the CNE reported that, over the course of two days (Aug. 29-31) the PSUV accounted for 39.3 percent of electoral advertising on the five largest broadcast networks (Venevisión, Televen, Globovisión, Tves and Venezolana de Televisión). Opposition parties, meanwhile, made up 60.3 percent. (The El Universal article did not explain the outstanding 0.4 percent.)
If, as the mainstream US press generally has it, Chávez is a censorial dictator who controls all of the Venezuelan media system except Globovisión, then how are we to explain the disproportion in publicity cited above?