A Decade of Propaganda? The BBC’s Reporting of Venezuela

Researchers at the University of the West of England, UK, have exposed ongoing and systematic bias in the BBC’s news reporting on Venezuela. Dr Lee Salter and Dr Dave Weltman analysed ten years of BBC reports on Venezuela since the first election of Hugo Chavez to the presidency in an ongoing research project, and their findings so far show that the BBC’s reporting falls short of its legal commitment to impartiality, truth and accuracy.

The researchers looked at 304 BBC reports published between 1998 and 2008 and found that only 3 of those articles mentioned any of the positive policies introduced by the Chavez administration. The BBC has failed to report adequately on any of the democratic initiatives, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives, or poverty reduction programmes. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy programme in human history received only a passing mention.

According to the research the BBC seems never to have accepted the legitimacy of the President, insinuating throughout the sample that Chavez lacks electoral support, at one point comparing him to Hitler (‘Venezuela’s Dictatorship’ 31/08/99).

This undermining of Chavez must be understood in the context of his electoral record: his legitimacy is questioned despite the fact that he has been elected several times with between 56% and 60% of the vote. In contrast victorious parties in UK elections since 1979 have achieved between 35.3% and 43.9% of the vote; the current UK Prime Minister was appointed by his predecessor, and many senior members of the British cabinet have never been elected. It will come as no surprise that their legitimacy is never questioned by the BBC. Continue reading

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Which Way Venezuela?

By Michael Albert

The diverse factual reports and other data included in this article are culled from documents made available by the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S.

Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is exciting and exemplary, yet few people know much about where Venezuela is headed.

Misrepresentations abound. Data is limited and people interpret it in quite contrary ways. Information deficit plus skewed interpretations cause many people who ought to support the Bolivarian Revolution to instead doubt or even reject it. Useful lessons from Venezuela go largely unreported and thus have less than their widest possible effect.

Overview

Hugo Chavez became President in 1999 and in that year, largely due to the ravages of neoliberal reforms in the 80s and 90s, the Venezuelan poverty rate had reached 50%. The aim and promise of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution was to not only eliminate rampant, raging, poverty, but to attain a new economic and social system consistent with the highest standards of human fulfillment and development.

In the 1999 constitution, Article 299, for example, emphasizes “human development” as the cornerstone of social judgements and Article 70 states that the “involvement of people in the exercise of their social and economic affairs should be manifest through citizen service organs, self-management, co-management, cooperatives in all forms, community enterprises, as well as other kinds of associations guided by the values of mutual cooperation and solidarity.”

But, as many skeptics would point out, words are not deeds, and you can find nice words everywhere – including, say, in the constitutions of countries suffering dictatorship and economic and social injustice, as but one example, in the constitution and other literary organs of the the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Words matter some, but they become infinitely more important and reliable as evidence if there are deeds in their support and particularly if institutional relations breathe life into the words every day.

So what about deeds? Continue reading