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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Addicted to Nonsense

Will Tiger Woods finally talk to the police? Who will replace Oprah? (Not that Oprah can ever be replaced, of course.) And will Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple who crashed President Barack Obama’s first state dinner, command the hundreds of thousands of dollars they want for an exclusive television interview? Can Levi Johnston, father of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s grandson, get his wish to be a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars”?

The chatter that passes for news, the gossip that is peddled by the windbags on the airwaves, the noise that drowns out rational discourse, and the timidity and cowardice of what is left of the newspaper industry reflect our flight into collective insanity. We stand on the cusp of one of the most seismic and disturbing dislocations in human history, one that is radically reconfiguring our economy as it is the environment, and our obsessions revolve around the trivial and the absurd.

What really matters in our lives-the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the steady deterioration of the dollar, the mounting foreclosures, the climbing unemployment, the melting of the polar ice caps and the awful reality that once the billions in stimulus money run out next year we will be bereft and broke-doesn’t fit into the cheerful happy talk that we mainline into our brains. We are enraptured by the revels of a dying civilization. Once reality shatters the airy edifice, we will scream and yell like petulant children to be rescued, saved and restored to comfort and complacency. There will be no shortage of demagogues, including buffoons like Sarah Palin, who will oblige. We will either wake up to face our stark new limitations, to retreat from imperial projects and discover a new simplicity, as well as a new humility, or we will stumble blindly toward catastrophe and neofeudalism. Continue reading

A Bad Press for Venezuela’s Chávez

by Bart Jones

As a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press who spent eight years in Venezuela, one of the most arresting things to me about Hugo Chávez is how the mass media generally depicts him as a buffoon, at best, or some kind of brutal dictator and evil monster. When Chávez visited London, for instance, one daily ran a front-page photo showing Chávez seemingly giving a fascist salute.

Now Chávez is sure to give more ammunition to his critics as he moves to eliminate limits on the number of times he can run for president. A new vote on the proposal, already defeated as part of a national referendum a year ago, could come as early as February 2009. Continue reading