On May 24, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will launch a 24-hour hemispheric TV news network, to combat what he calls "the conspiracy" by networks to ignore or "distort" information from and about this region.
Telesur's programming, which will be available free over the airwaves, will be split between news and "Latin America interest" documentaries, reaching viewers across South and North America, with expansion planned to Western Europe and North Africa for later this year. Promos begin this month with shows starting in July.
Telesur is being described as a regional endeavor: Argentina owns 20 percent, Cuba 19 percent, and Uruguay 10 percent. But Venezuela, with 51 percent, is the main player: The government has provided $2.5 million in start-up capital. The total cost and source of the money have not been disclosed, but some funding will come from corporate sponsors, not advertising, Aharonian says.
Information Minister Andrés Izarra is the company's president, and headquarters are being constructed here in Caracas. Some 35 staffers are already in the cubicles of the makeshift second-floor office, beepers and cellphones clasped to their jeans. Other offices are being set up in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, and in Washington. There is even a news anchor standing by: Ati Kiwa, an indigenous Colombian woman who wears traditional dress.
"We have been trained to see ourselves through foreign eyes," says Aharonian. "Europeans and Americans see us in black and white, and yet this is a technicolor continent."