Venezuelan private news channel Globovision is attempting to develop a more moderate image, however recent changes have been criticised by the conservative opposition.
The television station, known for its strident anti-government line, was bought over by a group of businessmen led by investor Juan Domingo Cordero earlier this month. Holding only a 4.3% audience share according to one study, a shift in editorial policy “toward the centre” was predicted by several media commentators at the time.
However recent changes at Globovision, in particular the dismissal of two opinion show hosts and the likely end of one current affairs program, have proved unpopular with some opposition supporters.
Last week Globovision’s management asked Ismael Garcia, the host of Sunday talk show Hello Venezuela, to discontinue his role on the program. Garcia is an opposition lawmaker who hit headlines recently when he released an audio recording which potentially implicates some government officials in acts of corruption.
Then, on Monday the dismissal of the host of current affairs show Good Night was confirmed. The reason given by Globovision’s management was that the host, Francisco “Kiko” Bautista, had undermined management by publicly complaining on twitter about Garcia’s dismissal.
Bautista argued that his exit was also because he had broadcast a live speech by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, after the channel had taken the decision to no longer broadcast Capriles’ speeches live. Capriles narrowly lost to Nicolas Maduro in April’s presidential election, and still refuses to recognise Maduro’s win.
Bautista’s co-hosts on Good Night also left the channel in solidarity with their colleague, effectively ending the show in its current form.
Globovision’s conduct since the new owners took charge will come as a blow to the opposition, whose strategy since the presidential election has been to question the Maduro government’s legitimacy and capacity to govern.
As with other private stations, Globovision’s new owners met with Maduro last week, an act which was seen as lending legitimacy to the government and a distancing from the opposition’s position.
On Sunday Henrique Capriles attacked Globovision’s owners over the apparent decision to end live coverage of his activities, accusing them of being allied to the government and of being enchufados (those with political connections).
Globovision’s management defended its actions, explaining in a statement on Monday that the channel’s editorial policy is “to broaden its line of opinion and information to all voices in the country, without any discrimination”.
“No journalist at this channel has been told or ordered how to make their programs. Not one,” the statement read.
Other reports have placed doubt over the idea that Globovision’s new owners are allied to the government. A recent article in newspaper Ciudad CCS cites that Raul Antonio Gorrin, one of the new buyers and a majority stakeholder in Globovision, is known to have signed a document against late President Hugo Chavez to provoke the 2004 recall referendum.
The president of Venezuela’s National College of Journalists (CNP), Tinedo Guía, further clarified Globovision’s editorial position following a meeting with owner Juan Cordero on Monday afternoon.
Guía reported that Capriles had not been “banned” from Globovision’s coverage, as some had claimed, but rather that the channel was set to scale back coverage of the opposition leader, “because it’s not an electoral campaign anymore”.
The CNP president added that Globovision’s owners “guaranteed to us that the channel’s editorial line isn’t going to go down, [however] there will be changes to maintain a balanced line”.
Maryclen Stelling, a media analyst with the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), thinks the shift in Globovision’s editorial line shows their “social responsibility with the present and future of Venezuela”.
She said that her investigations had shown that many media outlets in the country “behave more like political parties” than informative media, and that Globovision’s new owners “appear to have reflected and assumed their responsibility” as a news channel.
Nevertheless, the attempt to set a “balanced” editorial policy is proving unpopular with the channel’s core audience, and over 300,000 people have stopped following Globovision on Twitter in protest.
Changes in late-night scheduling have occurred on both sides of the political spectrum recently, with state channel VTV confirming this week that political talk-show The Razorblade has been pulled, after its host Mario Silva was heavily featured in the potentially incriminating audio recording released last week.
The majority of print, radio and television in Venezuela is privately owned, and is considered either neutral or critical of the government. VTV, the main pro-government television channel, holds a 6% audience share, according to official figures.