Sale of opposition TV station in Venezuela raises questions about its future editorial line

After the sale of Venezuelan TV station Globovisión -- known for many years for its staunch opposition to the chavista government -- statements from the new owners suggest that the channel's editorial line will be less critical, reported newspaper El Comercio. In a meeting with President Nicolás Maduro, the station's director, Juan Domingo Cordero, said the channel would make a commitment to promote "a climate of peace, not of conflict," said the Miami Herald.

The direction of the station's future tone, however, is still unclear, in part because of contradictory statements on the topic. A few days after the sale finalized, news stories emerged stating that there would be a change in the channel's editorial line "toward the center" and that Vladimir Villegas, a well-known journalist critical of chavismo, would resign as the station's director, El Universal reported. However, in a meeting with the company's executives in May 16, the new owners said there would be no changes, newspaper El Nacional said.

Considered to be the only opposition TV station in the country, Globovisión's history with the government of Hugo Chávez was always tense. Chávez constantly criticized the TV station, which was forced to pay almost 25 million bolívares in fines for its news coverage and once had its properties seized by the government, an action that was condemned by organizations like the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), WAN-IFRA and Reporters Without Borders.

All in all, the media's response to the pressure didn't help either to sooth the tensions, said Oscar Medina, a Venezuelan journalist who collaborates with magazines like Esquire, Rolling Stone and Leopard. "Media outlets took political positions that led to the loss of their most important asset: their credibility," Medina told newspaper El Comercio.

IAPA's president Jaime Montilla described the sale of Globovisión as a blow to freedom of expression in Latin America, AFP reported. “The decision by (the station's) main shareholder to sell the only truly independent TV channel in Venezuela surprised us," he said during IAPA's recent biannual meeting in Puebla, Mexico.


Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.