Venezuelan news network TeleSUR has launched an English-language Web platform aiming to reach a younger, global, English-speaking audience with a “Latin American perspective” on world events. The new initiative, supported by President Nicolás Maduro's administration and touting a leftist, social-oriented message, brings the TeleSUR network into the same ranks as Al-Jazeera English, China Central Television, Russia Today and France 24 as a government-funded effort to produce English-language news from non-English-speaking countries.
The website, http://www.telesurtv.net/english, went live on Thursday, the ninth anniversary of the TeleSUR network and the birthday of revered South American revolutionary Simon Bolívar (whose name is honored in the name of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as modified by late president Hugo Chávez). A series of promotional videos paints the new site as an alternative perspective on the news, carrying the slogan, “Don’t resign yourself to having just one side of the story.” Gregory Wilpert, founder of news website Venezuelanalysis, which he has described as "pro-Bolivarian Revolution," helms the new initiative as the website's director.
The programming lineup includes daily news shows focused on Latin America and world events, as well as spotlights on the U.S. through a show called “The REAL USA,” which is set to feature “reports on the United States as seen through the eyes of ordinary citizens, who normally do not make the news.”
TeleSUR President Patricia Villegas said in a press release about the launch that the project would cater to U.S. and British audiences with an aim to provide a Latin American view of global events. About 100 journalists were hired to launch the new platform, she said, with correspondents dispatched around the world. Villegas also told Venezuelan state television that the network was hoping to eventually branch out into French and Creole platforms for Haitian audiences. TeleSUR English’s main headquarters are in Quito, Ecuador, while TeleSUR is based in Caracas, Venezuela.
The TeleSUR news network began broadcasting in 2005 as a project by Chávez to further his message of Bolivarian socialism throughout the country and counter what he considered the pro-American stance of international channels like CNN. The network is funded mainly by the Venezuelan government, with additional funding from the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua and Cuba. TeleSUR’s initial launch alarmed members of the U.S. Congress, who attempted to pass legislation to broadcast radio and television programs in Venezuela to counter what they saw as the network’s “anti-Americanism.”
For now, TeleSUR’s English-language platform is relegated to the multimedia website, with no plans to bring the content to a broadcast channel. This emphasis on online content signals TeleSUR’s hopes of reaching millennial audiences abroad.
“Nowadays, younger generations are mainly consuming news online,” Wilpert said in an interview with TeleSUR’s main channel. “So if you want to capture this audience, you have to have an Internet presence.”