UPDATE: New Directions in Latin American Television (9/1/05; SCMS, 3/2/06-3/5/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Mary Leonard
contact email: 

Panel: New Directions in Latin American Television
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
Vancouver, Canada
March 2-5, 2006
Extended Deadline for Abstracts: September 1, 2005

        When City TV was founded in Bogotá, Colombia in 1999, it introduced
new concepts in television to Colombians. One was a new morning show
called Arriba Bogotá, which, unlike more staid news shows on other
channels, incorporated the participation of the television audience
into the show. Another new inclusive approach to programming was the
introduction of the City-cápsula: kiosks containing video cameras were
placed in areas throughout the city enabling any citizen who wished to
record a message to do so at will. Everyday, bogotanos of different
ages, backgrounds and classes can be seen in the City-cápsulas reciting
poetry, telling jokes, criticizing the government, delivering messages
to friends and loved ones, discussing problems which affect their
communities, singing popular songs, or using the medium to say publicly
whatever else occurs to them. By 2004, City TV had captured a 6% share
of the television audience. In a country in which the media has
traditionally been controlled by a small elite, City TV represents a
move towards the democratization of the media.
        During the 90s, programming on WIPR, the only government-run public
television channel in Puerto Rico, was dominated by imported
programming, much of it from the United States. In 2000, a new general
manager was appointed, and the channel changed its name to TUTV. Since
then, it has introduced a series of new local programs, and
commissioned local films. The channel's most popular new show, Cultura
viva is, as its title suggests, a live show which features performances
and interviews with artists, intellectuals, and cultural promoters, as
well as live coverage of cultural events occurring on the island. It is
broadcast every evening from Monday to Friday, providing an important
new space for the promotion of local culture. In another new program,
Lineas de fuga, teenagers are given video cameras and asked to create a
half-hour film documenting their own ideas and experiences. The
resulting films are broadcast on the program. Such changes, as in the
case of City TV, now offer the public a greater voice, stimulate
conversation about local issues and culture, and contribute to
fertilizing cultural projects on the local level.
        Most recent and most significant is the founding of Telesur, a
pan-Latin American television network dedicated to providing
programming for Latin Americans created by Latin Americans. A
"counter-hegemonic project" founded with backing by the governments of
Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, Telesur proposes an
alternative to the much more commercial entertainment of other
multinationals like Televisa and Univision, and to the first world
slant of the news coverage beamed into Latin American countries by CNN
and the BBC. If successful, it will mark a profound change since
Telesur will broadcast to all of Latin America. But what will be the
impact of this new media giant? Telesur already appears to be causing
alarm in the centers of power in the first world and on the part of
some wary critics in Latin America. Some have called it "Chavez-TV,"
suggesting that it will function primarily as the mouthpiece of the
left-wing Venezuelan government which, at present, owns 51% of Telesur.
The English newspaper The Guardian conjures up images which suggest an
ominous threat to the first world and its media: "A swastika painted on
a US flag flashes across the screen. Out of sight a voice proclaims:
"'Let's recover our memory and history from the claws of the
Empire...'" The voice is replaced by anti-imperialist chants and
metallic sounds, then the screen goes dark. Welcome to Telesur, Latin
America's answer to CNN and the BBC World Service." Representatives of
Telesur itself say that, although, in the beginning, it will be
sponsored by the four governments mentioned, it will not be merely a
mouthpiece for their political agendas. The goal is to gradually move
towards becoming an autonomous private network which will present
informative and creative programming incorporating a plurality of
perspectives and approaches. Time will tell.
        Clearly, there is change in the air. How is television in Latin
America evolving? How might the impact of changes in programming such
as those mentioned above be felt socially? What television programs or
approaches to programming instituted in recent years might be
considered progressive, innovative, alternative, subversive, or
unusual, in interesting ways? How might they help us reflect on the
role television is playing in specific cultural contexts in Latin
America ?

Please e-mail abstracts focusing on any of the topics mentioned or on
any other related topic, together with a short bio (no more than 3
sentences) to:

Mary Leonard
Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Film Sequence
English Department
University of Puerto Rico
Mayagüez Campus
(787) 834-0944

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Received on Fri Aug 12 2005 - 11:06:55 EDT