Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision did not air the Oscars for the first time in 39 years Sunday despite announcing its ad rates for the show during its upfront presentation. The network owned by media conglom Cisneros Group tweeted on the day of the Academy Awards that it did not have the broadcasting rights this year, setting off a firestorm of complaints and conspiracy theories on social media.
A screenshot of Venevision’s upfront presentation material clearly refuting the network’s claim immediately went up on Twitter, prompting speculation that it had bowed to government pressure. Venezuelans with cable or satellite subscriptions caught the ceremony on TNT or E! instead.
Grupo Cisneros VP of corporate communications Antonieta Lopez declined to comment as her son, Leopoldo Lopez, is a local opposition leader who turned himself in nearly two weeks ago and faces charges of inciting the street violence that has claimed up to 17 lives since early February.
According to Cisneros Media prexy Jonathan Blum, Venevision thought it had the rights during the upfronts in November, but negotiations with Buena Vista broke down in January. “We never announced that we were going to air it, but we sent out the tweet in response to queries,” he said.
As the street unrest against the administration and mainstream media suppression continued, protesters turned to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to call on Hollywood to shine the spotlight on Venezuela during the Oscars. A graphic campaign on various social media platforms prompted Information Minister Delcy Rodriguez to tweet: “Right-wing extremists are lobbying in Hollywood, looking for pronouncements against Venezuela at the Oscars!”
One compelling graphic shows the Oscar statuette wearing a gas mask with “#Oscars for Venezuela” emblazoned across it. Supporting actor winner Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) incorporated a shout-out to Ukraine and Venezuela in his acceptance speech while director winner Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) voiced his support during the red carpet and other celebs took to social media.
“To all the dreamers out there watching this in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, as you struggle to make your dreams happen and live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight,” Leto said.