Today, five years ago, the government of Hugo Chávez didn't renew the broadcasting license of network RCTV. And closed it.
I don't like to sanctify or demonize anything. Those are extremes that don't help any analysis. RCTV was a media outlet like many. It had the inherent tension between the media's commercial and social responsibility aspects. RCTV produced with variable quality. Inside its walls good and bad things happened. It made history, was school and a nurturer of talent, but it also fired talent...sometimes unfairly. And, it must be said, that in its last months on the air, its telenovelas were losing to Venevision's.
But the government's purpose was clear: to shut up an oppositional voice that spoke with the volume on HIGH. And to instill fear.
Today Venezuelan television ins't doing better than five years ago. Our telenovela industry has suffered particularly:
- It was, literally, reduced to half of its size.
- There was an exodus of Venezuelan talent to other markets.
- The lack of competition has made Venevision's telenovelas lose some of their engagement with the audience, made them less risky, and reduced their budget.
- Venevisión has increasingly absorbed RCTV's talent. Televen has done the same (although at a significantly smaller rate). I appreciate and applaud this development.
- However, once a network has witnessed how another is closed by the government, the urgency to survive is translated into frequent self-censoriship. That has happened both with Venevisión and Televen.
The key question is: What is worse for Venezuelan television? The media content law or the fear to be closed like RCTV?
Five years ago Venezuela lost. And it hasn't recovered yet.