Archive for March 4th, 2013

Chavez’ Digital TV: Much Ado About Nothing?

March 4, 2013

feb 21 TV-digital-en-Vzla

Recently, there was a lot of noise made about the new Venezuelan (Chavista?) digital TV standard, presented by President-in-impostor Maduro, together with Chávez’ son in law and Minister of Technology and Science Jorge Arreaza, who has lately been capturing a lot of the headlines, as spokesman for the soon to be Chávez Royal family.

According to Arreaza, the digital TV project is Chávez pet project, and it does not surprise me: The project does nothing to develop our own technology, it overpays for technology so that it can be purchased from his buddies and it has a fascist streak inside it.

Sounds like Hugo all right.

The focus so far on the digital TV  project has been either on the fact that Globovision was excluded, as covered by CC, or Daniel´s recent post on the related SIBCI system created by the Chavernment. But while in Caracas a couple of weeks ago (side note: I was actually on my way to meet the great Juan Nagel, of CC fame), I was listening to the radio and this guy (I don’t know who it was) was blasting the whole project from the technological to the corruption angle. You see, censorship under Chavismo has some very peculiar features: You can say what you want, as long as you don’t become a target. If you become a target, watch out! Anything can happen, from concession suspension, to jail, to having your boss be pressured to remove you.

But if you are an analyst at 8 PM on an elitist radio station, you are as much of a target as, say, an English language blogger. Bloggers seem to annoy or irk the friends of the Chavernment, not the Chavernment itself.

In any case, after listening to the story on the radio, I decided to look into it. And the whole thing is as bizarre as most of the last fourteen years. And by the way, I still find it very hard to understand how people who claim to be so nationalistic and to defend sovereignty, can not only ignore our own technical capabilities, but sell their ideals in exchange for money or simple admiration (or infatuation) for others.

The story actually starts when Venezuela decided to develop digital television before any other Latin American country had announced to do so. The origin is obscure, but it seems to originate in Socorro Hernandez, then President of CANTV, today a CNE Director, who chose a Chinese standard DTMB (and technology) for the project. Rumor has it that actually the Chinese chose her, as the Chinese standard, barely existed there at the time and even today, only exists there. And you have to give credit to none other than Jesse Chacón, credit where it is due, that realizing Socorro’s folly, stopped it and went for the Japanese/Brazilian standard.

The Japanese jumped at the chance, even suggesting they could finance a pilot project of turning VTV’s (the Government’s TV station) signal into digital. But after a couple of hundred million dollars (Chavistas know how to add and use foreign currency!) not much happened, the Japanese and Brazilians gave up in disgust and that is when the sneaky Argentineans stepped into the project.

And we are not talking about just any Argentinean, we are talking about the De Vido brothers, in charge of Planning and Science. Julio, the one in Planning is the big shot, he is none other than the one that was in the famous flight where Antonini got caught with the US$ 800,000 briefcase, known as Maletagate.

Meanwhile at Cendit,the National Center for Research and Development in Telecommunications, whose logo is “Building Sovereignty in Telecommunications”, some well meaning guys actually developed all of the technology for building the decoders in Venezuela. Despite this, the “labia” of the Argentineans had more power and Venezuela contracted for thirteen transmission systems and 300,000 decoders with them, reportedly the decoders were overpriced by a factor of three. (Which could be justified to have them developed in Venezuela, but not in Argentina)

But you see, the big selling point of the Argentineans was the fascist angle. In contrast with digital TV projects elsewhere, where access to the spectrum and the signals is just a standard provided by the State, in Argentina the idea is for the Government to offer “free” digital TV controlled by the State to compete with subscription based satellite and cable systems, which dominate in that country.

The problem is that in Venezuela, the digital TV signal will not eliminate the analog one until seven years from now. By then, the face of television, whether by Internet, or cable, satellite or whatever, will have changed forever, making the whole project and the noise, much ado about nothing. Except that the Japanese, the Brazilians, the Argentineans and the Chinese have sold us new trinkets on our way to digital “sovereignty”.

Not much has changed since Columbus. We are still dazzled shiny trinkets

Which would be funny, if the intent was not so fascist in the end.