Reportback from Caracas: March 5

Venezuela is undergoing a revolution, as the Bolivarian government of President Hugo Chavez continues building programs to encourage community-based social, economic and political development strategies. Communications, telecommunications and media are not left out--in fact, democratizing communications is a major priority for the Chavez government and the social movement that backs it.

In January, Reclaim the Media took part in a north American Communications Rights delegation to the World Social Forum in Caracas. Delegates also took the opportunity to visit several community media organizations and government media/telecom regulators in Venezuela.

On Sunday, March 5, I'll report on some of what we learned about the Venezuelan social/political revolution, how the Chavez government's development strategies are expressed through media and telecommunications policies, and what we can learn from the direction of Venezuelan community media.

Some of the things we found particularly inspiring:

* Some incredible community media institutions, including (licensed and unlicensed) community radio stations
* Community TV station Catia TV, with broadcasting and training facilities which would be the envy of most public access stations in the US
* ANMCLA, the Venezuelan association of alternative, free and community media, who view community media primarily as a tool for radical social change
* Our visit to CONATEL (the Venezuelan FCC) and the Ministry of Information, where we found that the Chavez government is devoting significant resources to building community media and forming policies that help shift media power from the top (concentrated ownership of corporate media) to the bottom (local, community-accountable publishing and broadcasting)

The reportback takes place at the Emma Goldman Finishing School (www.egfs.org), overlapping with their monthly open-house. Everyone is welcome to join in a potluck dinner at 6pm, before discussion begins around 7pm. The Emma Goldman house, an intentional community, is located in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood. Interested in coming? Please contact the EGFS info@egfs.org or (206) 324-6822 for more info and directions, and to RSVP for dinner..

During the evening's conversation, we'll also take the opportunity to give brief updates on Reclaim the Media's other current projects, including Seattle's cable negotiations with Comcast, organizing for the Northwest Community Radio Network, local TV media monitoring projects and more. Be there!

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey