Merida, March 12th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Globovision, an opposition news television station, announced yesterday that it has accepted a buyout offer, to be carried out after the 14 April presidential elections.
Various Globovision spokespeople attributed the sale to supposed operational and profitability issues, on which they blamed the Venezuelan government.
According to Globovision’s majority owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, the group buying the channel is headed by Juan Domingo Cordero, who also runs an insurance company, Vitalicia. According to El Nacional, Cordero has also been on the executive boards of the stock exchange, another insurance company, and a small bank.
“We are economically unviable, because our revenues no longer cover our cash needs… we are politically unfeasible, because we are in a totally polarised country and against a powerful government that wants to see us fail,” Zuloaga said in a statement.
Further, the host of Globovision’s program ‘Alo Ciudadano’ – a program that aimed to counter Chavez’s Sunday show ‘Alo Presidente’, Leopoldo Castillo, discussed the sale yesterday. He claimed the reasons for it include requiring technology, being judicially unviable, the priority of “saving the workers” and “many difficult years, it has become more and more difficult to satisfy the needs …of the personnel of Globovision”.
So far, the English language private press has reported the news of the sale as an issue of “press freedom”, with Associated Press referring to the government’s so called “campaign to financially strangle the broadcaster through regulatory pressure… the announcement… is a crushing blow to press freedom”.
Jose Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch, also said the news was part of a “disturbing trend… the government of Venezuela has created an environment in which journalists weigh the consequences of what they say for fear of suffering reprisals”. Human Rights Watch has consistently attacked the Bolivarian government, misrepresented its human rights situation, and declined to criticise the 2002 short lived coup against then president Hugo Chavez.
However Zuloaga’s own statement says, “Since we began [20 years ago] we have had problems with the government, which is natural for an information channel. With the last government of Rafael Caldera… they didn’t want to give us access to official sources”.
He then mentions the “attacks getting stronger” under the current government, and that last year, he decided to “do everything in our power…to make sure the opposition won the [presidential] elections in October…but the opposition lost”.
Private press are reporting that the buyer, Cordero, is “friendly” with some government officials, but so far has offered no concrete examples or proof of this, only citing anonymous “sources”.
According to Entorno Inteligente, Cordero has promised to improve the quality of news, and maintain the channel’s audience and workers. Zuloaga says in his statement that he has known Cordero “for years” and “he is a successful man in the financial world”.
Globovision’s public broadcast licence is up for renewal in 2 years. The Zuloaga family owns 80% of Globovision, but Zuloaga has been living overseas since 2010 when courts put out an arrest warrant for him for conspiracy and general usury over irregularities in his car dealership.
Journalists for the Truth respond
“The announced sale of Globovision is the strongest proof of the upcoming defeat of the candidate for the bourgeoisie [and the opposition], Henrique Capriles, in the 14 April [presidential] elections,” said Marco Hernandez, president of the Venezuelan NGO, Journalists for the Truth.
He asserted that the timing of the announcement was convenient, arguing that “its false that the channel is economically unviable… it’s enough to look at their publicity income…with net earnings of BsF 11 million (US $1.75 million) … and Globovision’s workers have the highest salaries in the field and they have the best technology in Venezuela”.
“What’s happening is the owners of [Globovision] are only thinking about their own interests as capitalists… not in the journalists who they use like cannon fodder… they take for granted that Capriles will lose… and knowing that their licence doesn’t deserve renewing…they are selling their channel because it doesn’t have any value without the concession granted to them by the state,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez pointed out that Zuloaga is a “fugitive” and that in his statement he had admitted he was an “enemy of the government” and therefore his channel wasn’t “an independent news channel” as it claimed to be.
“The truth is that it is a propaganda trench for the Venezuelan and international oligarchy opposed to the changes promoted by Chavez, something that is provable by analysing their programming,” Hernandez said.
“Their programming is so extreme and manipulative of the truth that it has been the object of innumerable denunciations by Consumer Organisations (OUU), and the opening of eight administrative proceedings against it, and a sanction by [public communication body] Conatel,” Hernandez added.
Last June Globovision paid a fine of Bs 9.3 million (US $1.5 million), eight months after the fine was first emitted by Contatel. The station only paid the fine after the Supreme Court ordered an embargo on part of its assets, to force compliance.
Conatel issued the fine after determining that Globovision had broken articles 27 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television during its coverage of the Rodeo prison hostage situation in June 2011. The station played interviews of distraught prison mothers 269 times over four days and added the sound of gunfire to the reports.