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Cablegate: Telesur Debuts with Much Fanfare, Little

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS CARACAS 002267

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV VE
SUBJECT: TELESUR DEBUTS WITH MUCH FANFARE, LITTLE
PROGRAMMING


SENSITIVE

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) THE MUCH-AWAITED LAUNCH OF TELESUR, THE REGIONAL
TELEVISION STATION HATCHED BY VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO
CHAVEZ-WITH NOMINAL COOPERATION FROM ARGENTINA, BRASIL,
CUBA, AND URUGUAY-OCCURRED ON SUNDAY, JULY 24. THE
INITIAL BROADCAST ORIGINATED FROM A THEATER IN CARACAS
WHERE SELECT INVITED MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS HAD
GATHERED TO WATCH WHAT AMOUNTED TO A NEARLY FOUR HOUR
TALK SHOW, INTERSPERSED WITH VIDEO CLIPS FROM AROUND THE
CONTINENT. IN A RELATIVELY SHORT CALL-IN, VENEZUELAN
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ FRIAS CLAIMED THAT THE STATION WILL
MAINTAIN ITS INDEPENDENCE AND WILL NOT BE CONTROLLED BY
ANY GOVERNMENT. THOUGH FEATURING A MOTLEY COLLECTION OF
LEFT-LEANING PHILOSOPHERS, ARTISTS AND JOURNALISTS FROM
THE REGION AND AROUND THE WORLD, WITH THE ATTENDENT VIEWS
EXPRESSED, THE BROADCAST'S ANTI-AMERICANISM WAS LIGHT
WHEN COMPARED TO MANY "ALO PRESIDENTE" BROADCASTS. THE
PRODUCERS SEEMED TO HAVE MADE A SELF-CONSCIOUS EFFORT NOT
TO SEEM LIKE AN OVERTLY "ALL-CHAVEZ" STATION. END
SUMMARY.

----------------
ON WITH THE SHOW
----------------

2. (U) THE INITIAL BROADCAST WAS TRANSMITTED VIA
SATELLITE AND WAS THEORETICALLY AVAILABLE TO VIEWERS IN
ALL OF THE AMERICAS AS WELL AS EUROPE. TO RECEIVE THE
SIGNAL, HOWEVER, REQUIRED A LATEST TECHNOLOGY DIGITAL
DECODER. (PAS CARACAS HAD TO BORROW ONE IN ORDER TO
DECIFER THE SIGNAL.) SUCH EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES WERE NOT
NEEDED FOR THE AVERAGE VENEZUELAN VIEWER. THE MAJOR
SATELLITE PROVIDER (DIRECTTV) PERMANENTLY ALLOCATED A
SPACE FOR THE CHANNEL ON THEIR VENEZUELAN SERVICE, WHILE
THE MAJOR CARACAS CABLE PROVIDER "BORROWED" THE NATIONAL
ASSEMBLY CHANNEL FOR THE BROADCAST, WHILE WORKING TO FIND
ANOTHER PERMANENT SLOT FOR TELESUR. OTHER SMALLER CABLE
OPERATORS ALSO CARRIED THE TRANSMISSION. WHILE TELESUR IS
SUPPOSED TO BE PERMANENTLY PLACED ON CHANNEL 11 (ON THE
OPEN BROADCAST SPECTRUM), THE TEST BROADCAST WAS ONLY
AVAILABLE IN ITS ENTIRETY ON ONE OPEN CHANNEL, VTV
CHANNEL 8 (THE STATE TELEVISION CHANNEL).

3. (U) INTERNATIONALLY, IT SEEMS FEW VIEWERS WERE ABLE TO
WITNESS THE LAUNCH. EMBASSIES IN PERU, BRAZIL, CHILE,
ECUADOR, COLOMBIA, AND CUBA REPORTED LITTLE OR NO
COVERAGE, WHILE BOLIVIA AND URUGUAY REPORTED THAT ONE
STATION IN EACH TRANSMITTED AN HOUR OF PROGRAMMING. STATE
TV IN ARGENTINA APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN THE MOST INTERESTED,
REPORTEDLY TRANSMITTING THREE OF THE FOUR HOURS.

4. (U) THE BROADCAST, WHICH BEGAN 16 MINUTES LATE,
LEAVING MANY IN SUSPENSE ABOUT THE CAUSE AND LENGTH OF
THE DELAY, ORIGINATED FROM THE TERESA CARRENO THEATER,
ONE OF CARACAS' QJOR PERFORMING ARTS CENTERS. THE SET
WAS A SEMI-CIRCULAR TABLE FEATURING THE APPROXIMATELY 35
PRESENT MEMBERS OF THE "ADVISORY COUNCIL" AND ANCHORED BY
THEN VENEZUELAN MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS (HE HAS SINCE
RESIGNED THAT POST) AND TELESUR PRESIDENT ANDRES IZARRA
AND TELESUR DIRECTOR GENERAL ARAM AHARONIAN. THE LATTER
TWO EACH GAVE A SET OF OPENING REMARKS, FOLLOWED BY
COMMENTS FROM NUMEROUS ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS. THE BOARD
IS COMPOSED OF (SOME WELL KNOWN) ACTIVISTS, ARTISTS, AND
JOURNALISTS FROM LATIN AMERICA, EUROPE, AND THE UNITED
STATES. FOUR AMERICAN BOARD MEMBERS WERE PRESENT,
INCLUDING ACTOR DANNY GLOVER, WHO IN THE PAST HAS
PUBLICLY SUPPORTED PRESIDENT CHAVEZ. OTHER NOTABLE
MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL INCLUDE: PAKISTANI FILMMAKER AND


WRITER TARIQ ALI, NICARAGUAN ERNESTO CARDENAL,
ENTERTAINER HARRY BELEFONTE, AND BRAZILIAN FILM DIRECTOR
WALTER SALLES (THE LAST TWO WERE NOT PRESENT). DESPITE
SOME OF THE MARQUIS NAMES, THOUGH, MOST ARE LESS WELL-
KNOWN FACES. ALI MADE PERHAPS THE MOST NOTABLE COMMENTS
WHEN HE RECOUNTED HOW A U.S. GENERAL IN DOHA HAD BURST
INTO AL-JAZEERA'S HEADQUARTERS DEMANDING AN APOLOGY FOR
VIDEO THEY WERE RUNNING OF THE AFTERMATH OF A U.S. TANK
ATTACK ON A CARLOAD OF IRAQI CIVILIANS, AND HOW IMPORTANT
IT IS FOR THE WORLD NOT TO ALLOW THE U.S. POINT OF VIEW
TO DOMINATE THE MEDIA DISCOURSE.

--------------------------------------------- -------
REGIONAL INTEGRATION, OR IDEOLOGICAL INDOCTRINATION?
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. U) PRESIDENT CHAVEZ, APPARENTLY AT PAINS TO NOT FA
CRITICISM OF TELESUR AS HIS OWN VESSEL, DID NOTAPPEAR IN
PERSON NOR ON VIDEO DURING THE BROADCAS. HE WAS SEEN
JUST BLOCKS AWAY AN HOUR EARLIER A A COMMEMORATION
CEREMONY MARKING SIMON BOLIVAR' BIRTHDAY, AND HOURS
LATER AT A MUSIC FESTIVAL I ANOTHER PART OF CARACAS.
ALMOST THREE HOURS INT THE BROADCAST, CHAVEZ CALLED-IN
TO GIVE HIS REGADS. DURING THE CALL, WHICH LASTED ONLY
19 MINUTE, CHAVEZ PROMISED THE STATION WOULD BE
INDEPENDET. HE ALSO SAID VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR TO THE
U.S BERNARDO ALVAREZ_ HAD ASSURED HIM THAT THOUSANDS WRE
WATCHING IN THE UNITED STATES (APPARENTLY INCLDING
PRESIDENT BUSH, WHO CHAVEZ SAID WAS "GLUED O HIS TV"),
WHILE FIDEL CASTRO TOO WAS VIEWING FOM HAVANA. (NOTE:
CASTRO MAY HAVE BEEN WATCHING IA A SPECIAL FEED, BUT THE
BROADCAST APPEARS NOTTO HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE TO CUBAN
VIEWERS). CHAVEZ AID THE PROJECT, WHICH HE CLAIMS TO
HAVE BEEN FOMULATING FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS, IS A
"HOMERUN" OR-MORE APPROPRIATELY FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE
CONTINENT-A "GOAL."

6. (U) THEN VENEZUELAN COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER AND
TELESUR PRESIDENT ANDRES IZARRA HAILED THE STATION AS THE
BEGINNING OF A NEW INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS ORDER, A
COUNTERWEIGHT TO A GLOBAL NEOLIBERALISM WHICH, ACCORDING
TO THE MINISTER, IS A THREAT TO LATIN CULTURES. IZARRA
WENT ON TO SAY, "TELESUR IS AGAINST THE OLIGARCHIES OF
OUR COUNTRIES AND THEIR ASSOCIATES IN THE NORTH. TELESUR
IS AGAINST CULTURAL IMPERIALISM, AGAINST IMPERIALISM IN
ALL FORMS. IT IS NOT AGAINST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AS SOME
HAVE SAID, WHICH IS PROVED BY OUR AMERICAN ADVISORS."

7. (U) ONE CURIOUS ASPECT OF THE BROADCAST WAS THE
LANGUAGE BARRIER. THE TWO PRESENTERS DURING THE BROADCAST
TOOK TURNS SPEAKING IN SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE, THOUGH NOT
REPEATING THE SAME INFORMATION, MEANING ONE TOOK
DIFFERENT INFORMATION AWAY FROM THE EXPERIENCE DEPENDING
ON ONE'S LINGUA FRANCA. ANOTHER UNUSUAL ASPECT WAS THE
SOUND OF BRAZILIAN REPORTERS SPEAKING HEAVILY-ACCENTED
SPANISH, LEAVING THE VIEWER UNCERTAIN ABOUT WHICH
LANGUAGE THEY WERE ACTUALLY HEARING. THIS PROBLEM LED TO
SOME JOKING AMONGST THE PRESENTERS AND GUESTS ABOUT THE
NEED TO LEARN PORTUGUESE, OR AT LEAST, "PORTAOL." THIS
ISSUE RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS FOR TELESUR, IN THAT THEY
MUST DEVISE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO BROADCAST BILLINGUALLY.
PREVIOUS COMMENTS HAVE INDICATED THEY EXPECT TO USE
PORTUGUESE SUBTITLES, HOWEVER, THAT MAY PROVE TO BE
DIFFICULT AND COSTLY, ESPECIALLY WITH LIVE BROADCASTS.

--------------------------------
ALL THE "NEWS" THAT'S FIT TO AIR
--------------------------------

8. (U) FOLLOWING THE INITIAL FOUR HOUR BROADCAST, TELESUR
REVERTED TO ITS FALL-BACK PROGRAMMING, WHICH HAS BEEN
PROMOTIONS AND VIDEO CLIPS OF CULTURALLY-FOCUSED
FEATURES. ONE NEW ADDITION, THOUGH, WAS THE "TELESUR


NEWSCAST," WHICH UNLIKE A TRADITIONAL NEWS PROGRAM, WAS
JUST A SERIES OF NON-TIMELY (NOT HEADLINE-BASED) NEWS
FEATURES. THESE ALL INCLUDED A LEFTIST SLANT AND SOME HAD
AN OVERTLY ANTI-U.S. BIAS. TOPICS COVERED IN THESE
TYPICALLY FOUR TO FIVE MINUTE REPORTS, WERE:
-POST-COUP HAITI (CHAOS, HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT, AND
EXPLOITATION OF HAITIAN WORKERS BY WESTERN ORGANIZATIONS,
THE LATEST FEATURING VIDEO OF "USA" MARKED SUPPLY BAGS AS
ITS VISUAL).
-DISPLACED COLOMBIANS LIVING IN SQUALID CONDITIONS ON THE
OUTSKIRTS OF BOGOTA (WITH NO MENTION OF HOW THEY BECAME
DISPLACED, I.E. BECAUSE OF INSURGENTS).
-CARACAS PROTESTS AGAINST MURDERS OF POOR
SQUATTERS/FARMERS (GIVEN EARLIER IN THE WEEK BY THE
VENEZUELAN VICE PRESIDENT AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE DEATHS
THAT THE PRIVATE MEDIA DON'T CARE ABOUT, TO DEFLECT
CRITICISM OF THE POLICE MASSACRE OF STUDENTS IN CARACAS).
-THE AWARDING OF THE OLYMPICS TO LONDON, WITH MENTION OF
HOW NEGLECTED LATIN AMERICA IS IN THIS REGARD, AND
FEATURING A QUOTE FROM THE VENEZUELAN VICE MINISTER OF
SPORTS CRITICISING THE CHOICE OF LONDON BECAUSE OF THE
BRITISH GOVERNMENT'S PARTICIPATION IN THE IRAQ WAR, WHICH
HE TERMED CONTRARY TO THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT.
-MOST IMPORTANTLY, A STORY ABOUT 400 U.S. MARINES LANDING
IN PARAGUAY TO, AS THEY QUOTE FROM BOLPRESS, "NO DOUBT
HEAD TO THE TRIPLE BORDER WHERE THE U.S WANTS TO
ESTABLISH A BASE," WHICH, ACCORDING TO THE TELESURE
NARRATOR, "CALLS OUR ATTENTION GIVEN THAT THE RIVER IS
ONE OF THE GREATEST SOURCES OF FRESH WATER" IN THE
REGION. THIS REPORT ALSO MAKES MENTION OF THE IMMUNITY
FROM PROSECUTION AND FROM THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL
COURT BUILT INTO THE DEPLOYMENT AGREEMENT.

-------
COMMENT
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9. (SBU) WHILE IT APPEARS TELESUR WILL NOT BE ALL CHAVEZ,
ALL THE TIME, CHAVEZ'S PET ISSUES WILL DEFINITELY BE THE
FOCUS OF MUCH PROGRAMMING. GIVEN ITS BASE IN CARACAS, ITS
STAFF, ITS FUNDING (51% VENEZUELAN), AND ITS PRESIDENT,
IT WOULD BE SAFE TO ASSUME THAT THE VIEWER CAN EXPECT
MORE OF THE SAME WHEN IT COMES TO COMMENTARY AND "NEWS."
THAT BEING SAID, CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN NOT TO DEMONIZE THE
VERY EXISTENCE OF THE CHANNEL, WHICH DOES FEATURE SOME
VALUABLE CULTURAL ASPECTS AND IS BOUND TO AWAKEN SOME
REGIONAL/CONTINENTAL IDENTITY IN VIEWERS. TO PUBLICLY
VIEW THE ENTIRE ENTERPRISE AS THREATENING WOULD BE TO
FALL INTO A TRAP WHICH CONFIRMS THE U.S. WANTS NOTHING
MORE THAN TO DOMINATE THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE AND DEVALUES
THE UNIQUE CULTURAL IDENTITY OF THE REGION. TELESUR
SUPPORTERS AND GOV OFFICIALS HAVE ALREADY COMMENTED THAT
THE RECENT CONGRESSIONAL AMMENDMENT ADDRESSING THE
STATION IS PROOF THAT IT IS A THREAT TO THE U.S.'S
DOMINATION OF THE REGION'S MEDIA. A MORE EFFECTIVE
STRATEGY WOULD BE TO POINTOUT AND CONTRADICT SPECIFIC
INSTANCES OF ANTI-AMRICANISM WHICH SURFACE IN NEWS AND
OPINION CONTENT, THEREBY PUTTING THE PRODUCERS (AND THEIR
GOV MSTERS) ON THE DEFENSIVE.

BROWNFIELD


NNNN
2005CARACA02267 - UNCLASSIFIED

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