Monday, October 23, 2017

Los Domingos Con Maduro

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his weekly broadcast ''Los Domingos con Maduro'' (Sundays with Maduro) in Caracas, Venezuela. Despite the political upheavals of this year Maduro has continued to broadcast on schedule on Sunday's at noon. His program even has it's own twitter account here.  The program it is broadcast on Venezuela's state-owned radio network VTV – Venezolana de TelevisiĆ³n, and their state-owned radio network Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) .  They just broadcast episode 95 on October 8th, 2017.

For President Maduro this program has been a fundamental tool to interact with his constituents.  In some respects the program isn't that different from the weekly radio address of the President of the United States. It was a media practice started by Roosevelt in 1933, and restarted by Ronald Reagan in 1982. It's been continued since then, and even converted to a podcast, and Youtube videos. [Even Donald Trump has continued the tradition.]

But there are some practical differences. In the U.S. it has long become customary for the President's Weekly Radio Address to be followed by a response from the opposition party. Maduro's program is in no way a debate. Maduro offers a politically myopic programming. This in a nation that since 2003, Freedom House has ranked as "not free" when it comes to press freedom. Problematically Freedom House is funded by the U.S. government. This is reason to doubt it's conclusions.

But in Venezuela, government control of the media is entrenched in law. In 2004, under president Hugo Chavez, the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television was passed. This law allows the government to censor media in order to "promote social justice and further the development of the citizenry, democracy, peace, human rights, education, culture, public health, and the nation’s social and economic development." The language was Orwellian then, but even more chilling when it was extended to the Internet in 2010.

But perhaps the greater difference is that relatively few stations carry the American president's program. In Venezuela all of VTV and Radio Nacional de Venezuela carry Los Domingos con Maduro. According to a 2016 report by G2MI, Radio Nacional de Venezuela operates 52 FM stations and 9 AM stations. Most of them carry audio of the program... even if the logo is a little silly looking. Yet the multicolored hearts logo only debuted January 22nd of 2017.