Henrique Capriles has hit out at the overwhelming bias of the Venezuelan state media, claiming that the VTV channel alone has given 46 hours and 43 minutes of coverage to Nicolas Maduro since the former bus driver became acting President after the death of Hugo Chavez on 8 March. Over the same period, Mr Capriles claimed he received just one minute and 18 seconds of airtime.
“We are not asking for anything outside the law,” Mr Capriles told a news conference on Monday evening. “It is about the parties in the race having the same space in the media and the same rights.”
Over 14 years in power Mr Chavez built up a huge state media empire, with the number of government TV stations rising from one to four during his time in office. Mr Maduro’s massive advantage over Mr Capriles has also been helped by his heavy use, like Mr Chavez before him, of “cadenas”, compulsory state broadcasts described by media watchdogs as “harangues” of the opposition, which all TV stations air.
The Caracas-based media monitoring group Monitoreo Ciudadano has calculated that the acting President appeared in cadenas totalling six hours, 44 minutes between 14 and 26 March. “It’s an extremely unequal election campaign. The public TV stations are completely partial. When they give Capriles some time, which is almost never, it is to ridicule him,” Marianela Balbi, director of the Caracas-based journalism think tank IPYS told The Independent.
Mr Capriles, who trails Mr Maduro by 10 points in the polls, is limited in his ability to counter the cadenas. Both candidates are allowed a maximum of just three minutes per day of paid campaign advertising. Now Globovision, the only private TV station still critical of the government, is on the point of being silenced after being excluded in February from Venezuela’s new digital TV system.