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Channel 4 sides with Mentorn TV on pro-Chavez stance

By Aleksander Boyd

London 10.12.04 | What follows is an email exchange between myself and Channel 4 with respect to “Unreported World – El Comandante”. Readers may remember that in October Channel 4 broadcast said programme as part of a series and as ever, the inaccuracies, flaws and subjective interpretation of presenter Sandra Jordan shone through. The conflict in Venezuela continues unreported to the world…

Subject: Re El Comandante on Unreported World
From: A. Boyd
Date: 30/10/2004 21:54

To whom it may concern,

In my character of director of a London based international NGO dealing with the subject of Venezuela, I was contacted by a researcher of Mentorn TV (Bettina Truemper) and asked to provide information in regards to human rights violations in Venezuela, for what it was to be the production of a documentary on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Said documentary has just been broadcast by Channel 4, as part of a series entitled "Unreported World".

I would like to protests in the strongest possible terms the misleading and factually inaccurate content of the programme, which is heavily charged with subjective interpretations about the nature of the crisis affecting our nation. Presenter Sandra Jordan's comments such as "the heavily guarded headquarters of Sumate..." to imply a violent character in relation to them or the featuring of comments made by Eva Golinger (whose connections and work for the regime voids all credibility) to reinforce the hypothesis about US interference in our sovereign matters can lead the audience to believe that indeed, our crisis is the result of an orchestrated destabilisation campaign crafted in Washington, leaving off the hook the real implications that the authoritarian character of the president has in it.

For that reason I would like to respectfully request a right to reply to be able to demonstrate, facts in hands, how biased the mentioned documentary is.

Subject: Re El Comandante on Unreported World - Email from Kevin Sutcliffe
Date: 09/12/2004 14:38
To: A. Boyd

Dear Aleksander

Thank you for your email to Viewer Enquires dated 30 October 2004 about 'Unreported World - El Commandante' broadcast on Channel 4. Your email has been passed to me, as I am the commissioning editor responsible for the series. I apologise for the delay in responding.

Unreported World, which is now in its ninth series, is the only regular foreign affairs series currently broadcast on British television. Consistently travelling to parts of the world other news teams don't reach, it has been described by critics as 'one of the most valuable programmes on television'.

Channel 4 are obliged to remain objective, fair and balanced in the programmes it transmits. I believe the programme in the Unreported World series about Venezuela represented both the pro-Chavez as well as the anti-Chavez prospective and was not biased, as you suggest.

I do not agree that noting that Sumate's headquarters are heavily guarded implied that Sumate has a violent character. It is a simple statement of fact. Conversely, the implication that a viewer would take is that the Sumate workers feared attack from forces that do not agree with the work they are doing. In this they would be accurate.

We did not say the situation in Venezuela was the result of an orchestrated destabilisation campaign crafted in Washington. What we showed by including Eva Gollinger's research was that the US is assisting with funding of some organisations in Venezuela who claim to be pro-democratic.

The programme does emphasis that Chavez has polarised the country and that many organisations had united in their call for the referendum to vote him out of power. The programme fairly and accurately reflected the position and events surrounding Chavez and the election at the time of the making of the programme.

However, I am sorry that you were unhappy with the contents of the programme. I do value your comments and thank you for contacting us

Subject: Re: Re El Comandante on Unreported World - Email from Kevin Sutcliffe
From: A. Boyd
Date: 09/12/2004 17:14

Dear Louise,

Many thanks for your comments. As ever you are way off base in your understanding of the reasons of the conflict in my country. Having included Eva Golinger's comments implying that Sumate had received $12 million from American agencies, is not only factually inaccurate, is a blatant lie.

The comment of Sumate's HQ being heavily guarded, is a subjective one. Conversely, the narrator did not mention one instance of gross human rights abuses done by chavistas. As a matter of fact, Sandra Jordan, conveniently failed to mention that Maritza Ron was assassinated on August 16th by government sponsored thugs, while she purportedly shows some 'interest' by going to Clinica Avila to see the condition of Ernesto Alvarenga.

I have come to learn that it is pointless for me to try an explain the situation to people like you, who are so infatuated with the romantic concept of a neofascist terrorist devolving the dignity to the disenfranchised, thus I won't go on pointing the programmes many inaccuracies and subjectivity.

From a viewer's point of view I could not care less about what you or the editors of the programme think about a particular situation, for a documentary is meant to inform not to propagate political spin.

I have taken the issue to Ofcom, and sooner or later you will be hearing from them in that respect.

End of messages

I keep pondering about this issue, the more I deal with these socially resented people, the more I become convinced that it is futile to explain the situation to them for they do not want to learn about the harsh reality. The concept of someone somewhere playing the Robin Hood role soothes their minds just fine and marries perfectly with the fashionable status of being a revolutionary in London. What’s more, these converts have tried to convince me that Chavez’ revolution is actually good for my country. Quite frankly I do not know what to say or where to start anymore, having proved them wrong with facts, that to them are nothing but fables. As Bettina Truemper said regarding research on this topic "It is all fun, but it sometimes don't give you much time to do one subject thoroughly".

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