Nets to cover polls en masse to save money, protect themselves

MIAMI — In an unprecedented move, Venezuela’s four national and eight regional broadcasters will pool their field coverage of the May 28 elections.

By combining resources, the broadcasters expect to be able to cover about 85% of Sunday’s polling, in which President Hugo Chavez is running for re-election and voters will cast their ballots for every other elected position in the country, for Congress on down to city councils.

Savings move

Officially, the broadcasters say the countrywide electoral pool is a cost savings move.

“We’ve had five elections in the past year and a half,” said Gustavo Grossman, VP of programming and production at Televen, one of the four national networks. “The budgets are used up.”

The broadcasters have banded together to protect themselves from President Hugo Chavez, who has been vociferous in his criticism of the media, to the point of singling out networks, as well as individual newscasters and reporters. And there have been allegations of government censorship of news coverage.

Rough political scene

The tense political situation — and the importance of the impending election coverage — are also said to have been a factor that kept top TV executives from attending the L.A. Screenings market.

For the purposes of the pooled coverage, no reporter in the field — nor his or her reports — will bear any network or station affiliation. Rather, reporters and camera crews will be identified merely as members of the Venezuelan Television Federation.

Each channel will still offer its own studio-based coverage of the electoral process, using its own anchors. The broadcasters can incorporate the live feed from around the country as they see fit.

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