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electoral controversy in Venezuela: can elected officials campaign? (part 2c)

September 24, 2010

[This is the fourth installment of this article. You may wish to read Part 1 Part 1, Part 2 , and/or Part 2b before proceeding.]

This continues my response to Fransisco Suárez, who responded to Part 2 on behalf of Súmate. Fransisco’s second concern is expressed in these two points:

1) You cannot divide “the aggregate of the coverage on 5 different outlets”, since the 5 different outlets made a coverage of 2 hours each of the “caravana”. This means 2 hours of each day devoted to the “cadena”. This is indeed very far from your “1 minute for every hour of the day”. I’ts actually 5. Moreover, This was in specific event, to which you have to add the official propaganda allowed (and not allowed) by the CNE that was also transmitted that day.
This means that the total hours of the official transmission, made by the addition of the 5 outlets, made 10 hours of official transmission in different media that day for that particular event.

2) The 2 hours broadcasted in the “caravana” were in it’s entirety political propaganda. Indeed, you may no fully understand the term “caravana” but it is basically a rally of pro-chavez supporters in which the president is in the front of a truck with all of its candidates raising their hands in sign of victory and cheering at the crowd. If you would seen the footage, the camera was focused 95% of the time on Chavez cheering at the crowd and promoting it’s candidates.

This answers several of the questions I posed in part 2, and it now appears that I misinterpreted the press release, which stated:

…de los 24 actos transmitidos por la plataforma de medios de comunicación social del Estado:

Ocho (8) fueron caravanas del presidente Chávez con los candidatos a diputados del Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela a la Asamblea Nacional, las cuales ocurrieron en las entidades federales Distrito Capital (2), Anzoátegui (1), Nueva Esparta (1), Aragua (1), Zulia (1), Táchira (1) y Falcón (1). El promedio de cada una de las caravanas es de dos (2) horas que multiplicado por las ochos (8) caravanas y actos proselitistas del Presidente de la República, da un total de dieciséis (16) horas de transmisión por los medios del Estado Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), Asamblea Nacional Televisión (ANTV), Vive TV, Ávila TV y Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV).

…of the 24 acts transmitted by the State media platform:

Eight (8) were caravans of President Chávez with legislative candidates from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which occurred in the federal entities Capital District (2), Anzoátegui (1), Nueva Esparta (1), Aragua (1), Zulia (1), Táchira (1) and Falcón (1). The average of each caravan is two (2) hours that multiplied by the eight (8) caravans and proselytizing acts of the President of the Republic, gives a total of sixteen (16) hours of transmission by State media Venezuelan Television (VTV), National Assembly Television (ANTV), Vive (Live) TV, Ávila (Eagle) TV and National Radio of Venezuela (RNV).

Uninterrupted live coverage of a party parade and rally is much different than segmented, journalistic coverage of the same event. Two hours focused on Chávez in his role as President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) seems to be a clear misuse of state resources. It’s laughable to think that Venezuelan state television would broadcast an opposition parade and rally, so I’m fairly certain that the coverage is not balanced.

It’s still important to be clear about the total amount of coverage, especially because there seems to be a contradiction between the press release and one part of Francisco’s reply. The press release states that there were 16 total hours of coverage. If, as Francisco says, there were ten hours (two x five stations) for each “particular event”, then we would need to multiply those ten hours by the eight separate events, which gives us 80 total hours, not 16. I’m going to assume that Francisco’s description of the coverage is correct, but that each caravana was broadcast by only one channel, not five; in other words, two hours of coverage on a single channel on eight separate days, for 16 total hours. (If anyone knows otherwise, please comment.)

This means that while the caravanas were being broadcast, viewers could have chosen alternative programming on the other state television channels, as well as on any of the private national and regional broadcasters. If the camera really was on Chávez waving at the crowd for almost two hours, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone – even Chávez supporters – would watch. That’s just boring television. Regardless of its effectiveness, however, the broadcasting of caravanas does seem to provide a clear example of the use of state resources for partisan campaigning. Given Francisco’s clarification, I see no reason to discount it. These 16 hours would hardly amount to dictatorial control of the media environment, but Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral / CNE) should definitely conduct an investigation and levy sanctions if need be. The decision to ignore these charges speaks poorly of its autonomy.

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