By Dimitri Prieto
The multi-national Latin American television network “TeleSUR” (the New Television Station of the South) has been on the air for several years now. Its prestige swelled after the recent events in Honduras: Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made reference to it in her July 4th speech at the OAS.
TeleSUR stood out in the sense of being practically the only source through which information on the popular struggles in Honduras was able to be broadcast from the country, evading the censorship of the coup forces. With obvious motives, the military acted quickly to expel TeleSUR’s journalists from the country.
TeleSUR is the property of several countries. Cuba is among its founders and – according to my sources – holds 20 percent of its shares. According to that same source, TeleSUR broadcasts at least 22 hours per day.
I refer to those “sources” because – paradoxically – in Cuba we don’t have access to those TeleSUR broadcasts, except for fragments that are inserted in national news programs (NTV, the Roundtable, World Lens, etc.) and of an edited selection of a little more than one hour that is transmitted at night under the heading “The Best of TeleSUR.” As its very name suggests, there are people working for Cuban TV who are in charge of choosing what is “best” for it viewers.
It is clear to me that TeleSUR – like any other communications medium – obeys the interests of the entities that control it; one would have to be naïve to think that any medium is “impartial” or “commitment free.”
But it’s also clear that, in comparison to Cuban television programs, it would constitute a valuable source of information and understanding for Cubans, who have become accustomed to vulgar, insipid or simply stupid programming. The current frenzy to obtain decoders for viewing digital TV broadcast from the United States is the consequence of the poor senseless national television programs.
Of course I’m not saying that those who now watch “Cristina’s Show” or movies with only kicks and punches would be the potential TeleSUR viewers. I’m only suggesting that the makeup of the audience as a whole would change with the airing of a new programming alternative.
This would be similar to the change that occurred when two educational channels were added to Cuban TV, as well as with the recently launched “Multi-vision” channel – though it completely dispenses with political-news content.
The purpose of TeleSUR is in fact to serve as an alternative to the corporate choir of the globalized mainstream. So why are “ordinary Cubans” excluded from this possibility?
From what I’ve seen, despite its intermittent one-sidedness, many TeleSUR programs (the ones that make it to our eyes and ears because they’re selected as the “best” by those officials in charge of censorship) take a more wide-angled look than Cuban TV.
Also, TeleSUR presents the revolutionary, democratic and popular reality of social movements; this is something unknown by most Cubans (who do know a lot about mass-mobilizations, but little of self-led, self-organized, independent movements).
And what can one say of the potential of a TeleSUR channel in Cuba to counter the racist, Euro-centric, sexist, homophobic, anti-intellectual and anti-indigenous stereotypes that still plague many of our aspects daily life? The eradication of such stereotypes is a key objective of any emancipatory effort. We must remove the weight from above – period. Why then don’t we have access to the alternative?
It’s possible to have TeleSUR as an additional channel for Cuban TV. Those who should have the right to choose what is the best or worst of TeleSUR are the Cuban viewers (especially since we are the owners of 20 percent of the station), and we should execute that entitlement exclusively through our TV remote control buttons.
I believe that the moment to implement such a possibility is now, precisely because of the events in Honduras. Among the first measures that the dictatorial de facto government took was to suppress TeleSUR. It is horrifying that (in descending order) the second country with the least access to this multi-national communications network is Cuba.