Something new in the latin american air

2005-08-09 00:00:00

A signal travels around the globe, carrying images and
sounds of the World Social Forum. And a little closer to
Porto Alegre, Venezuelan state television, Vive, broadcasts
to its inhabitants, and for 10 minutes a day to Brazil,
what 120,000 people are up to here.

The latest media addition to the WSF host country is TV
Brasil, a coalition of four Brazilian communications media
associated with the executive, legislative and judicial
branches (Radiobrás, TV Senado e Câmara, and TV Justiça),
which is launching its pilot project in Porto Alegre.

TV Brasil emerged from an idea of President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva and Senate president José Sarney to create a
state-run television network that helps the integration
efforts of the nations of South America. "This is not a TV
network to broadcast Brazilian propaganda to the world, but
rather aims to help the poor peoples of this content to get
to know each other," says José Roberto Garcez, Radiobrás
communications director.

The broadcast makes an important contribution towards the
dream of building international media in South America. It
is the first time that a state television network is taking
images of the Porto Alegre WSF beyond Brazil's borders.

Programming is broadcast in Portuguese and Spanish across
all of Latin America and parts of North America, Europe and
Africa. "The Forum was the perfect place to test the
project," says Eugênio Bucci, president of Radiobrás. "This
is an event with participants from all parts of the world,
and interactions between them are horizontal," as opposed
to hierarchical.

A WSF Studio

To make this launch possible, a communications studio was
set up in the middle of the Forum, staffed by 40
professionals, including 20 journalists, to bring to the
world the events of Porto Alegre for more than 12 hours a
day. "Broadcasts begin in the morning, when the conferences
are getting under way, and only end when the shows do, late
at night," said Lia Rangel, coordinator of the project. In
addition, a live 30-minute news programme keeps the viewing
audience up on the top events of the day. Despite
difficulties, the show had a strong start, interviewing
Argentine Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, 1980 Nobel Peace laureate,
said Ana Maria Rocha, production chief for TV Brasil at the

But not only Brazil aims to launch an international
communications channel for South American integration.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez has already announced
Telesur, which reportedly has the same idea as Brazilian
television, but there are some contrary arguments. "I think
the idea of Telesur is bolder. I think the Brazilians are a
little hesitant, waiting to see how far the Venezuelans
will push it," says Iraê Sassi, an active contributor, as
he himself describes it, to Telesur. Nevertheless, the two
future state-run media powers cite the same goals:
integration and strengthening of South America, promoting
self-recognition and a different image of the continent.

Against hegemony

Says Aram Aharenian, Telesur director-general, "We know
what is happening in Chechnya, but we don't know what is
happening here in Latin America. That is why creating this
network is essential." It is slated to premiere in April.
Telesur doesn't intend to be more than a South American TV
channel, adds Aharenian, but one that is capable of
breaking the hegemony of existing broadcast media. "The
more channels that exist, the better it is for
communication. It is important to democratise information,
to see Latin America through Latin American eyes."

While Telesur remains on the drawing board, Vive is moving
full steam ahead at the WSF. With three hours of
programming daily, four editing rooms and four press teams,
the Venezuelan channel is highlighting indigenous issues
and alternative media, but mostly the matter of land for
rural workers.

According to Radiobrás director of operations Roberto
Gontijo, TV Brasil is helping the Venezuelans both with
infrastructure and providing images. "On January 30 we will
be recording President Chávez at Gigantinho Stadium and we
will hand over the video to Vive."

This could well be the first time that Brazilian and
Venezuelan networks work together. "With Telesur we will
engage in a wide range of exchanges. The two broadcasters
will complement each other," says Radiobrás president Bucci.

The Argentine government is also considering creating an
international television channel, which demonstrates the
deep concern that South American countries have about this

Despite all the speculation about the role that these TV
channels will play, there is little disagreement about the
importance of an alternative approach to media
communications in South America.