Latin News

2 minute read
Tim Padgett/Caracas

It doesn’t hit the air until July 24, but the new Caracas-based regional television network Telesur is already being called the Latin al-Jazeera. Like the Qatar-based network, which since its debut in 1996 has become the broadcasting voice of the Arab world, Telesur (sur is Spanish for “south”) aspires to be the medium through which Latin Americans see their news and culture. Some 70% of its $2.5 million seed money has been put up by oil-rich Venezuela and its flamboyant President, Hugo Chávez–whose leftist, often anti-U.S. agenda includes increased Latin American integration and a rejection of Yanqui-based TV like CNN en Español. “U.S. and European networks offer a good product, but they tend to view Latin America in black-and-white terms–and usually black, like disasters,” argues Uruguayan-born Telesur director Aram Aharonian, “We’d rather see ourselves in Technicolor.”

Critics fret that Telesur may become a teleforum for Chávez’s populist politics, but Aharonian insists it will be balanced, even when it comes to Chávez’s revolutionary government. And while Telesur plans a mix of news, documentaries, sports, Latin movies and dance-music shows like Sones y Pasiones (Sounds and Passions), others doubt its viability, given the Soviet-sounding titles of programs like Trabajo y Tierra (Work and Land). But in its first year, Telesur, which will be seen on local and cable stations from Mexico to Argentina as well as Miami, expects to bring in $10 million from commercial sponsors. And if oil prices stay at record levels, Chávez can afford to keep the venture afloat for years. –By Tim Padgett/Caracas

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