Last week we read the publication of the shares of Venezuelan television for the month of October:
RCTV International: 4,4%
Source: AGB. Medición nacional. Total televidentes ABCDE de 6 a 12am. Octubre 2007.
In the message board of Television Venezolana e Internacional (TVVI), the reactions (1, 2) have centered mainly on:
* The fact that, even though it is now on cable only, RCTV International, has a bigger share than the government channel that took over its frequency, TVES.
* Whether Venevisión has capitalized the absence of RCTV. In other words, whether it has increased its share now that RCTV is only on cable.
Since I'm completely opposed to the way the government did away with the opposition that RCTV represented (see my posts 1, 2 and 3), I'm happy that RCTV International has a better share than TVES.
As for Venevisión, the network has benefitted from RCTV's absence. Following are the approximate shares during April this year, (RCTV was closed at the end of May):
We should note too that both Televén and Globovisión have also increased their shares in the post-RCTV era.
However, and even though ratings and shares are the currency of the television business, I'm concerned tha the lack of competition will change the way television is made in Venezuela.
I'm particularly concerned about telenovelas. I worry that without internal competition, telenovelas will be produced with the sole purpose of international sales. We are seeing it already. Ciudad Bendita, my last case study, is probably the last telenovela broadcast by Venevisión which was designed to win the ratings war in Venezuela. As for RCTV International, it is now co-producing with Telemundo in order to survive and be sure of its international sales. I'm not sure yet what form their productions will take. The first one, Toda una Dama, a fair remake of the extraordinary telenovela Señora originally written by José Ignacio Cabrujas, has a cast in which talent is uneven.
I'm concerned that as priority is given to international sales over local success (which doesn't matter anymore given the lack of competition), Venezuelan telenovelas will lose their local color and flavor. Many believe that there is nothing wrong with this. Furthermore, they think that this is exactly what the Venezuelan industry needs to regain the top place it occupied once in the international market. I disagree. Firstly, because the political economy of the international telenovela business is different to the one that was in place when Cristal and Kassandra conquered the world. Today the global market is dominated by remakes and telenovelas that are both short and formulaic. There is no risk-taking these days. Secondly, because in Venezuela telenovelas and the social formation have a particularly strong dialogic relationship. Without losing the universality of melodrama, telenovelas have spoken to us, Venezuelans, about who we are, how we love and how we stop loving. If we take away the local flavor, we will be closing this important dialogue between television and culture, and we will diminish the space for autoanalysis. We will also ascertain that our local culture isn't good enough to be present in the international arena.
There was a time in which we enjoyed listening to the different accents, words and sayings present in the telenovelas of varied countries. It was a time in which the local conquered the global. We now live the inverse moment: the global imposes itself over the local. And the global is an imposed construction that implies uniformity, repetition and conformity. I believe these three elements are the mortal enemies of creativity, which is the key ingredient that will assure the health and perdurability of this television genre.