This essay explores the politics of representation in contemporary Venezuelan television, which in its mainstream forms has produced an urban imaginary that models national citizenship on the geographic, class, and racial divisions of the Venezuelan metropolis. The nation's airwaves have been a crucial theater of partisan class conflict in Venezuelan society since the election of President Hugo Chávez, a radical social democrat who has counted on the residents of the nation's huge urban slums, or barrios, as a major constituency. This study concentrates on the two major antagonists in this televisual battle by exploring their visual content and production methods in the context of the history of Caracas's barrios and the nation's television industry. On one side, Globovisión, a private cable news channel, commands the loyalty of the nation's middle-class anti-Chávez opposition; on the other, Catia TVe, a nonprofessional UHF station based in west Caracas's barrios, mobilizes its urban constituency with some state financing. The essay examines the different forms of political citizenship that these stations offer and explores how they complicate popular liberal notions of “civil society.” It also reconsiders questions about the political role of mass media—to what extent are citizens manipulated as objects of the television media, and can they become subject-participants in their own representation? Finally, this study provides a critical examination of the formally innovative model of “alternative” media production that Catia TVe offers.
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John Patrick Leary; TV Urgente: Urban Exclusion, Civil Society, and the Politics of Television in Venezuela. Social Text 1 June 2009; 27 (2 (99)): 25–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2008-021
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