Chilean paradigm in media scandal

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Mon Sep 9 12:35:56 MDT 2002

{relate to Venezuelan media mogulopolies --to begin with... --c.}

Santiago Times, September 9, 2002
Keywords: MEDIA

In an event characterized as "historic" by media watchers in Chile, a
major Chilean daily took aim at one of Chile's leading businessmen in
its Sunday, August 18th edition:

The state-owned La Nacion published embarrassing information about
Nicolas Ibanez, the conservative CEO and taskmaster at the nation's
leading supermarket retailer, D&S, which owns the Lider, Ekono and Almac
supermarket chains.

Making the story even more interesting was Ibanez's effort to squash the
La Nacion article by buying up most of the 15,000 editions of the paper
printed August 18, and the national media's subsequent temerity in
reporting these events.

"The La Nacion story unmasked Nicolas Ibanez... revealing that behind
his severe religiosity... there hides a man who beats his wife -
according to allegations made to the courts by his former wife, Maria
Carolina Varela," said the bi-monthly alternative newspaper The Clinic.
"Before the publication of the La Nacion article - the first in a long,
long time to reveal so completely the true face of one of Chile's most
powerful men - Ibanez had been treated with kid gloves." Even more than
many others in Chile's very conservative business community, Ibanez has
attempted to meld his religious and social views into his business
practices - outlawing short dresses for his female employees, tatoos and
earrings for his male workers, and requiring employees to attend a
company-mandated, quasi-religious "La Cumbre" self-improvement course.

Ibanez is a follower of the Catholic Church's Legionnaires of Christ

This unspoken alliance between Chile's conservative, mostly Catholic
business leadership and the Catholic Church has worked together on a
variety of issues in recent years, including a strong lobby to keep
divorce outlawed in the country and to spare former military dictator
Gen. Augusto Pinochet embarrassment at the hands of Chile's judicial
system. And both seem clear in their support of Santiago Mayor Joaquin
Lavin, a member of the Catholic Church's Opus Dei sect, as Chile's next
president in 2006.

"The La Nacion case is very serious, not just because is it a clear
attempt to squelch our right to information, but because it indicates
that there are first and second class Chilean citizens," said Faride
Zeran, head of the University of Chile's journalism department and a
board member at the state- owned TVN Channel 7 television station.
"First-class Chileans can talk out of both sides of their mouths,
demanding that their employees be good Catholics and behave themselves
well, while at the same time beating their wives, acting like beasts,
and then, if the news gets out, muzzle the media." Channel 7 did not
report the Ibanez story until five days after the event, and only after
board member Zeran had made a fuss. Other media delayed about as long,
gave extremely scant coverage and accepted Ibanez's explanation of the
La Nacion buy-off at face value: Ibanez claimed his employees
"spontaneously" decided to rise early Sunday, August 18 to buy about 85
percent of La Nacion’s press run, spending millions of pesos in Santiago
and throughout the 12 regions of Chile.

"Most people when they talk about power in Chile, think in terms of
politics, and not networks of influence and the weight that some carry,"
said Zeran when asked if TVN was ever subject to pressure. "I have my
doubts, and I have said as much in specific cases, like, for example,
the delay in reporting the strike by workers at Telefonica. If having
2,000 workers in the street on a legal strike is not news, then I don't
know what is. And my doubts are even greater now because of the delay
that occurred in reporting the kidnapping of La Nacion."

For The Clinic, the La Nacion story is a paradigm that repeats itself
often in Chile:

“Nicolas Ibanez, a successful, ultra conservative businessman is accused
of beating his wife.

“This powerful news is reported in only one newspaper, La Nacion. All
the other media ignore it. The reason is simple:
“Ibanez's businesses spend a hefty amount of money on advertising in all
the communications media. Whoever publishes the information will lose
the Ibanez advertising, and would be left without any money. Cases like
this are the order of the day, almost every day. The real interests of
the news media have nothing to do with the sworn truth. There is too
much mutual back-scratching involved, politicians to protect, issues
that are too prickly, pockets to be filled. Good journalism is not good
business. And it never has been.”

And The Clinic should know. As Chile's most successful alternative
newspaper, with a twice-a-month press run of more than 50,000 issues, it
has yet to receive a penny of advertising from the soft drink and beer
industries, typically the strongest backers of such publications.

{ironic?: I looked for some mention of Sunday's march in Santiago
in the Santiago Times, an on-line, English-language digest of stories
from the Chilean press -- 'twas not to be.  }

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