VHeadline Venezuela News (Roy S. Carson) reports: According to today's (Saturday) editions of the national broadsheet El Universal, it takes more than one hundred people to organize each edition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias' +5-hour 'Alo Presidente' television show each Sunday. And it takes the team up to 82-hours of solid work to set up each outside broadcast so that things work to the satisfaction of the President, ministerial team and invited guests.
Venezuelan Audiovisual Workers Union organizer, Juan Carlos Sosa ... a senior technician at State TV broadcaster Venezolana de Television (VTV) -- says it is an incredible undertaking to produce each edition of 'Alo Presidente' and while privately-owned Venevision produces a 5-nights-a-week TV soap opera called 'Torrente' with roughly the same number of production staff, they don't have to shift cameras, sound gear, production assistants, microphones, equipment operators, editors and make-up artists as well as lighting, scenery and other personnel for hundreds of miles around the country between each week's edition.
El Universal's Jose Antonio Azopardo quotes Sosa as saying the 'Alo Presidente' team makes phenomenal efforts at the drop of a hat to follow orders to the letter over mountains, savannas, deserts, plains and jungles around Venezuela's twenty-three states.
More than often than not, a week's production odyssey takes them to the most inaccessible regions of Venezuela ... like a recent program broadcast live from a hydroelectric complex in the mountains of south-western Tachira State close to the border with Colombia.
The assignment, under the organizational supervision of the Ministry of Communications & Information (MinCI) was a battle against the clock and stretched VTV's technical and personnel resources to the absolute limit. "The whole production team travelled in convoy overland for seventeen hours and arrived on-site at 6:30 a.m. to go on-air in less than seven hours! The set was up by 10:00 a.m. and we could relax for a couple of hours but we were back on the job 'live on air' at 2:30 p.m. with no breaks until the program ended at 7:30 p.m. and we finally got back to the hotel at midnight to eat and sleep..."
Worst of all, the whole production team can go through the same marathon operation week-in, week-out ... catching only a few hours sleep ... only to wake up to the -morning news in the early hours of a Sunday morning that the whole 'Alo Presidente' broadcast has been pushed aside for a sports event or abandoned completely. The only thing left is to pack hundreds of trunks with technical gear etc., and head off home to begin another round of helter-skelter some Monday morning.
The bonus for the production staff, of course, is that VTV cameramen, sound technicians etc., can count on as much as 58 hours x8 times paid overtime in a routine week's work, plus travelling expenses and hotel accommodation thrown in.
While VTV unions act to protect working conditions and wages for their members, voices are being raised over the phenomenal costs raised by the logistics in such a massive operation on behalf of the President who uses the program as a political platform to promote his new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The program usually highlights the many good things that the Chavez government is doing for his people, but at the same time there is little or no air-time given to any critique and members of the political opposition need not apply to make guest appearances on the show! And, since the President and his political party are making no financial contribution to the overall costs of the 'Alo Presidente' show, there is an increasing volume of rejection to why Venezuelan taxpayers should have to foot the bill ... exacerbated VTV president Yuri Pimentel recently decreed that all over non-government TV channels would have to pay the equivalent of US$60 a second for the privilege of re-broadcasting VTV's program output!
Admittedly, Chavez has said that the state-owned VTV channel's "technical equipment" ... and the channel itself are "unsustainable" ... he has blamed TV employees for the mounting costs but they say that the problem is not due to them. Union leader Sosa says "the excessive hours we work does not help the production workers ... it's all down to poor planning. MinCI is not concerned about the overtime since they are not footing the bill ... we lose a lot of time shifting equipment etc., hither and thither and getting people to distant place." Sosa adds that significant savings could be made with better management of time and resources. "It's a matter of administration and coordination ... they can not simply blame the workers."
"Everyone is working with the same enthusiasm, the same commitment, but there is growing malaise ... VTV workers believe it should NOT be like this and that the President (Chavez) is misinformed ... or is being given information that is mis-managed for a completely different purpose. MinCI Minister Andres Izarra was making the same statements two years ago that the President is now using to put the blame on us ... and it is all wrong!"
Roy S. Carson
Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.