Public media was ‘expensive propaganda’ during Correa years, government says

Oct 25, 2017 | 2 comments

Ecuador’s director of government-owned media lashed out Tuesday at the management of public newspapers and television stations during the Rafael Correa administration.

Public media director Andres Michelena

“What happened during the past 10 years is disgraceful,” said Andrés Michelena. “The public media was handled in a propagandistic, deceitful and mediocre manner that cost the tax payers millions of dollars. Just as bad, professional quality was sacrificed in the interest of selfish political interests.”

Michelena highlighted the management of the government-owned Gamavisión television station, which he claims misled employees to believe they were shareholders in the company. “The directors told the workers that they would be owners of a profitable business but, in fact, they guaranteed that it would fail,” he said. Due to government borrowing and mismanagement, he says Gamavisión today carries a debt of $17 million with a small viewership.

Michelena also complained of “shameful manipulation” of editorial content in government media. “The media became a propaganda tool with no intention of providing real news,” he said. “Two international journalism organizations provided constructive criticism that was ridiculed by the managers. Among other things, they pointed out that the writing and reporting quality was ‘infantile’ and provided little value to readers and viewers.”

Readers reacted predictably to the poor quality of the media, Michelena said. “The press run of the (Guayaquil newspaper) El Telégrafo was only 17,000 a day during the period of government management and 65% of that ended in the recycle bin,” Michelena said. The readership was even lower at Cuenca’s El Tiempo, which the government purchased in 2015. “In the following year, the newspaper lost a third of its readers due to a decline of quality and propagandistic content.”

Other examples of mismanagement, Michelena said, was the purchase of 46 transmission stations to increase television viewership in the Amazon and rural mountain areas that were never used.

According to Michelena, the current government is pursuing several options to reduce media losses, including the merger of Gamavisión and Ecuador TV, announced last week.

The sale of some media is also an option, he said. “We are beginning to rebuild viewership and readership, which is essential for making media properties attractive to investors, but it will take time to repair the damage.”