The Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez, along with the left-leaning governments of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, will be launching Televisora del Sur (Telesur), a continent-wide TV station, by late June or early July to counter the neoconservative messages promoted by the corporate-owned media.

The project is the brainchild of Chavez, who is helping to guide its development. He has long pressed for the formation of alternative media to challenge the monopoly that television conglomerates such as CNN and others enjoy over the flow of information through South America.

Aram Aharonian, Telesur’s general director, told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada that “Telesur was born from the conviction that in these days of great saturation television, [this medium] cannot be left in the hands of the enemy,” alluding to the large corporate networks. “The Venezuelan government has given great importance to community and alternative radio, but has [so far] left the mass media to the enemy. Today it is apparent that mass communication is important, since alternative media only reaches 5 percent or 7 percent of the general audience.”

Aharonian said Telesur will counter the right-wing bias of mainstream television news. For instance, “Commercial TV tells us today that there is a liberating coalition in Iraq saving the Iraqis when we know it is a genocidal invasion.”

“Telesur’s reason for being is the need to see Latin America with Latin American eyes,” he said. “It’s our right to have our own vision of what happens in Latin America, and not what Europeans or Americans, or whoever, tell us about how we are, who we are. Also, we aspire to have our own agenda, touching on themes that quickly disappear off the radar of commercial media and that stops being news. We want to tell the stories from beginning to end.”

Aharonian said the creation of Telesur marks “the first time in Latin America, after many years of neoliberalism, that the state has returned to fomenting projects that serve the citizenry.”

Telesur’s director of information, Jorge Enrique Botero, said that the new network will broadcast less U.S.-focused news and more from the “voices of new social and political sectors” in Latin America that have been historically ignored. “A one hour slot is already scheduled during which the communities themselves will report what they have to say,” he said.

Botero also said he wants to develop a global network of journalistic collaborators from the independent media.

Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina are also supporting the creation of Telesur to promote unity and integration among the countries of the region. These same governments, with the exception of Brazil, will initially finance the new television station, but the expectation is that other sponsors will take over long-term funding. The network will not accept commercial advertising, however.

While Telesur will show documentaries and entertainment programming, news reports will account for 40 percent of all programming. It will have correspondents in the United States, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. Its governing board comprises journalists from Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and Cuba. Its main facilities will be in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

Telesur has agreements to share material with state-owned TV Brazil, which is involved in launching Telesur but will not own stock in the network. It has also signed a cooperation agreement with Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based network, to share news reports.

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