BBC Venezuela reporting propaganda according to UWE professor

My communication with Dr. Lee Salter, a journalism professor and researcher from the University of the West of England, who has recently argued that the BBC’s coverage of Venezuela amounts to propaganda, started thus:

Dear Dr. Salter,

I have just read in Gregory Wilpert’s website about your research, and I only have a couple of questions:

1) Who is funding your research?

2) If different from above, who will fund the next stage of the project, trip to Caracas, etc.?

I should be most grateful if you could shed light on the above.

Dr. Salter replied:

Dear Alek (if I may?),

At this point we are not being funded. Most of the research is taking place our of our own time, and that which the University makes available.

The trip to Caracas is self-funded as a kind of holiday with a friend who will go on to tour S America.

We do hope to arrange funding for the next stage, but I have not had time to make a bid yet. I should have more time next semester. Indeed, I did try to approach the Venezuelan govt press people (to arrange the research as a kind of consultation), but received no reply.

Best wishes, Lee.

From the initial exchange, the conversation moved to further questioning on my part. I was rejoiced by the arguments put forth by Dr. Lee Salter. A sample of which follows (bold added by me):

  • … I must say, I am a little perplexed. I am well aware of the purpose of I think the charge that it is a “propaganda” site is somewhat disingenious, but that is perhaps I teach critiques of propaganda and PR…
  • … I think given the chorus of disinformation coming out of Venezuelan media, and the international media (for in the days after the 2002 coup, EVERY national newspaper and television station in the UK repeated the claims of the coup-leaders. This is extraordinary. Whether one likes or loaths the Chavez administration and its policies, the fact of the matter is that it has a popular mandate…
  • … Personally, I think that there are many things the Chavez administration has done that are admirable – especially trying to tackle poverty and trying to promote education (which were the main planks of the 1997 Labour administration in the UK), yet perhaps clean water, food and literacy is too controversial for the “keep them poor, keep them uneducated brigade”?…
  • … Indeed at times – many times – the BBC simply gets it wrong. For example, the management lockouts of major industries a few years ago were constantly reported as strikes. Again in the UK the BBC would have reported them as lock-outs…
  • … It IS the case that the BBC opposes the military dictatorship in Burma, yet welcomed it in Venezuela. It is true that the BBC is silent on the terrible abuses of human rights in dictatorships (dressed up as quaint, “traditional” monarchies) such as Saudi Arabia, yet has completely accepted the “opposition’s” framing of Chavez as a human-rights abuser (studiously ignoring the incorporation of international human rights norms in the Venezuelan constitution, and the establishment of human rights ombudsmen…
  • … As it happens, I have also been studying the situation since 2002…
  • … As regards human rights, well this again is a significant issue. What human rights have people with no access to those rights suggested by the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights…
  • … Re oil money. Interesting. Have you got any evidence you can point me to about these new billionaires? (I am not being facetious – as I have been trying to say, my interest is in what is being reported and what is not being reported, so any such information will help the research)…
  • … It is not wrong to say that Hitler was elected in the first instance, but this did not mean he had a democratic mandate. Chavez, like it or not, was elected and has had constitutional reforms agreed through referenda makes his different enough for the analogy to be inaccurate (add to that that Chavez doesn’t have imperial asperations, does not seek to “unify” a “greater Venezuela” based on race, and that he doesn’t seek to exterminate opponents en mass and it beomes even weaker)…
  • … In contrast, yesterday I think I had the best insight into contemporary Caracas yesteday – better than all of the journal articles, books, reports and news items put together. I met with a Caracan, who gave me a very frank and I think accurate analysis. He worked for a mission (I think Ribas), which he initially supported, but found it to be so badly organised that in order to teach anything he and his colleagues simply abandoned the programme and ran it themselves. He said that this was exemplary of Chavez’s projects – as he put it, Chavez is surrounded by incompetents. He thinks that in many respects Caracas has become a better place, but the government has not addressed the underlying problems. He said that some of Chavez’s people have been utterly corrupt (including the minister caught recently), but Chavez is probably not himself. He said that Chavez still has masses of support, that the constitutional extension of limits was understandable, that elections so far have been undoubtably fair and that he thinks Chavez will probably win the next election. As the same time, he said that if Chavez did not win, he feared what would happen (i.e. that he would not be prepared to stand down), that there are questions about the Carter Center’s observations (he thinks the Ven Govt is their only client!!), and that whilst Chavez’s people get away with corruption, his opponents get taken down on the basis of very suspicious evidence…
In light of so much BS, from an academic that claims to be interested solely in the BBC reporting rather than in Chavez policies, my last message to him was: “There’s is really no point in continuing with this Lee. I will conclude my side of communications by saying that you have left British academia down, by way of such ignorant, baseless and utterly partisan opinions.” Mind you, Dr. Lee Salter has written things like: “…the coverage in that country and elsewhere of the clearly faked scenes of Chavez supporters shooting non-existent opponents).” Surely a beacon of objectivity, innit?


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