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Why We Must Debate the Farce of Benevolent State Media

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Aug 1, 2014, 11:35 am

EspañolStatist ideas have advanced so far since the 19th century that today many of the state’s functions today are considered normal, traditional, necessary, and even convenient. But they’re not.

Controlling the money supply is one such function, but another is state-run media, mislabeled as “public.”

It’s difficult to think of any government in the world that does not have their own news organization, either radio, television, or in print. In fact, many of the them, like the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) or the Spanish and French-owned television networks, are considered examples of high-quality, unbiased journalism. They are seen as cultured and informative alternatives for their citizens.

Newer networks, though, like the Chavista Telesur are more blatant in the way they misinform their citizens with lies and manipulated information.

Under what has become a status quo, we can find many examples of how inconvenient, illegitimate, and even dangerous these networks can be. As evidence, lets examine what happened last week on the Mayor of Bogota Gustavo Petro’s television network.

Canal Capital — “more humane television” — has been the network of the mayorship for years. However, now is when we understand its true implications and usage. A well-known television presenter and journalist, Mauricio Arroyave, denounced he was censored by Canal Capital’s manager, mayoral aid Hollman Morris, to the point that Morris rejected a contract renewal.

Since he started working at the network, Morris has been criticized for leading the network with clear political interests, to benefit his boss and manipulate information. However, as was to be expected, Morris has responded to critics with the claim that he is being persecuted, and with allegations about the local government’s goodness.

Gustavo Petro, former member of a militant guerrilla group, has been mayor of Bogota since 2012.
Gustavo Petro, former member of a militant guerrilla group, has been mayor of Bogota since 2012. (Wikimedia)

But his presence with the network shows that he is the one who persecutes opponents, the one who is against freedom of expression, and the one who applies blind spots and political criteria to the transmission of information.

He has delivered an opportunity to open up a debate about merits of dangers that exist with “public” news organizations. And the arguments against them are abundantly clear.

One of the main objections is the economic justification: why are citizens obliged to maintain a network that is financed through taxes?

There is also the fact that, even if disguised as a cultural alternative, state-owned media has but one objective: serve the regime (no matter which administration) and legitimize their excesses against the population.

The various other justifications for state news outlets crumble under their own bloated weight, as the Bogotá scandal demonstrates.

It is said that these networks allow for there to be different points of view, to preserve liberty of expression and to provide society with information they would otherwise not have access to. Thus, they give a voice to those who are not satisfied or those who cannot find a voice within privately owned organizations.

A free and equal society is what Capital Canal promotes.
“A free and equal society is what Capital Canal promotes.” (CC Facebook)

Different points of view? Of course, only if they are within a range that the network’s administration will tolerate. Freedom of expression? Limited by the political interests’ legislative dictates.

Information that would otherwise not exist? On the one hand, you cannot know this for sure, but on the other, it ignores the fact that the information provided by these networks is specifically disclosed for propaganda purposes. Thus, we forgo content that would be available if the media were dictated by the consumers via the market, as opposed to being crowded out by political decisions.

Bogota’s case, this dark and never-ending scandal of Mayor Gustavo Petro’s administration, shows he is an expression of the worst within the populist-Marxist movement in Latin America. This movement espouses programs that are grand by name but lack implementation and viability. They predictably fail to include everyone, since they support social causes based on invented class conflict and on hatred towards the very principles they claim they defend: democracy, tolerance, and freedom of expression.

Statism’s advances have been substantial, but these battles are not lost. It is necessary to take up the debate once more, to dismiss the state from spheres that are now considered adequate and normal. It is necessary to take advantage of opportunities like this one.

Translated by Anneke Ball.

Javier Garay Javier Garay

Javier Garay is a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. He has written two books on international issues, such as development, after his doctoral dissertation focused on the same topic. Follow him on Twitter @crittiko and through his personal blog, Crittiko.