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Cablegate: "Jesus Christ, Super Censored": Gbrv Pressure Sinks

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/26
TAGS: PGOV VE PHUM SCUL EINV
SUBJECT: "Jesus Christ, Super Censored": GBRV Pressure Sinks
Musical's Sponsorship Deal

REF: 10 CARACAS 219

CLASSIFIED BY: Rolf Olson, Acting Political Counselor, DOS, POL;
REASON: 1.4(D)

1. (C) Summary: On February 26, local media reported that a
sponsorship deal for the Venezuelan musical production of Jesus
Christ, Superstar fell apart after the production company refused
to comply with demands by sponsors Blackberry-RIM and Movilnet that
publicity for the musical not be placed in certain local media
considered unfriendly to the Venezuelan government (GBRV), such as
TV station Globovision and newspapers El Nacional and El Universal.
Production company director Michel Hausmann said that the
state-owned Movilnet and Canadian-based Blackberry-RIM further
informed him that the producers could place no ads - even with
their own money - in media which had not been approved by the two
companies. Hausmann and his fellow producers refused to comply, and
are seeking other financing. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Local media on February 26 reported that local
production company Palo de Agua had pulled out of a $300,000
agreement with two companies, Blackberry-RIM and Movilnet, to
sponsor and provide publicity for an upcoming local production of
the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar. (Note: Movilnet is the cell
phone subsidiary of GBRV-owned telephone company CANTV;
Blackberry-RIM is a private Canadian company. End Note.) According
to Palo de Agua's director, Michel Hausmann, the deal had initially
been consummated verbally on January 7, followed by a January 21
written confirmation from the two companies.

3. (SBU) Hausmann relayed that on January 29, Palo de Agua's
leadership was summoned to a meeting in the Caracas offices of
Movilnet, where the producers were informed of a "new condition"
for the contract. Palo de Agua would be barred from placing ads for
the musical in a handful of specified local media outlets:
Globovision, radio station Ateneo FM, and local newspapers El
Nacional, El Universal, El Nuevo Pais, Tal Cual, and Revista Zeta.
Furthermore, Palo de Agua could not purchase advertising - even
with its own resources - in media which had not been approved by
Blackberry RIM and Movilnet. According to Hausmann, an official of
Movilnet asserted that the musical could only be advertised in the
newspaper Ultimas Noticias and television channels other than
Globovision. Finally, the banned media outlets could also not serve
as co-sponsors of the musical, despite having done so for previous
Palo de Agua productions.

4. (C) Hausmann told Cultural Officer by phone on February 26
that Palo de Agua appealed directly to the Mexico-based regional
headquarters for Blackberry-RIM, which refused to back away from
Movilnet's demand, arguing it could not go against its "biggest
ally in the region." Hausmann said Palo de Agua then formally
pulled out of the deal by affirming that it was "an autonomous
business that did not mix its artistic objectives with ideologies
that run contrary to principles of liberty and democracy." Fellow
Palo de Agua director Yair Rosemberg observed that "it's one thing
when the government acts this way, to which we are well-accustomed.
But Blackberry-RIM is a business that has many interests outside of
Venezuela." Hausmann also relayed to Cultural Officer that Palo de
Agua had wanted to go public about the dispute when it transpired
in late January, but feared retaliation before the production work
had commenced. Hausmann said his fears were confirmed when in the
first hour after the news broke on February 26, Palo de Agua's
agent received a call from Movilnet asserting that Palo de Agua
"would regret the decision" to go public, and should be prepared to
"get screwed."

5. (C) Comment: The GBRV's policy of withdrawing advertising
from private media outlets it perceives to be "attacking the
revolution" has already taken a significant toll on the financial
prospects of many of those outlets (Reftel). This incident confirms
the degree to which the GBRV seeks to shut off any source of
revenue to media it considers politically antagonistic. End
Comment.
DUDDY

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