Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Importance of Network Competition: Colombia vs. Venezuela

It is amazing to think that simple competition between networks could have such a huge impact on the quality of a telenovela. This impact can be seen in the cases of Colombia and Venezuela. Both countries have enjoyed a lucrative telenovela industry. However, Colombia’s quality and international recognition is expanding while Venezuela is seeing these two aspects decline. This has to do with the fact that RCN and Caracol, the two leading networks in Colombia are always in competition with ratings and viewers. On the other hand, Venezuela does not enjoy this healthy competition between networks anymore after the government of Hugo Chavez began to censor a lot of aspects in Venezuela’s daily existence. For this reason, many television stations in this country began to censor themselves because they were under constant threat of being sanctioned or put off the air. Those networks that decided to continue criticizing the government like RCTV, obtained the harshest penalties. In the case of RCTV, its license with the

government was not renewed and as a result it was not able to go on air after May 2007. With this blow to the television industry, Venevision no longer has a competitor. This in turn has caused the telenovela industry in this country to decline. With so much censorship and no one to compete with, Venevision has begun to create a more universalistic telenovela to export with a lot more self-censorship. What is interesting to me is that Venezuelan telenovelas were already doing great in the export market without having to be universalistic. The mannerisms and ways of speaking of the Venezuelans attracted other countries. There was no need to go in this route. On the other hand, I can see where this network is coming from. With no competition and the government always watching what it was saying in its television programming, a new form of producing telenovelas had to be created. Venezuela is going through hard economic and political times and like in many other cases, this is reflected in the quality of its television programming. 

In Colombia’s case, Caracol and RCN are in constant competition for ratings. With minimal government censorship and new genres of telenovelas such as the narco-novela gaining popularity, this industry is flourishing. Much like Venezuela almost 20 years before, Colombian telenovelas are going through a golden period in my opinion. Even though this industry is definitely not universalistic, people from a vast array of countries love watching them. I think what makes them so popular is the fact that they are so “Colombian.” Its entertaining to see the different accents and mannerisms of each region of the county. I feel that this industry is going to continue growing in Colombia if it keeps on following the same path. Productions are becoming more elaborate, the story lines are well written, and the dialogue is thought out. Some examples of the great production and overall quality of Colombian telenovelas which have had both success nationally and internationally include Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal, Yo Soy Betty la Fea, and Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso
Competition is very important to the television industry, especially the telenovela one. Without competition networks are not as inclined to spend generous amounts of money and produce thought out telenovelas. This in turn not only affects the quality of a telenovela, but it also affects the average viewer in this country who is forced to watch subpar programming.  Colombia is a great example of how competition is helping create intricate and award winning productions. Hopefully Venezuela is able to once again produce competitive telenovelas worldwide in the near future when more television networks are able to compete against each other and the watchful eye of the government is eliminated. For now, we will just have to enjoy the amazing telenovelas Colombia is producing. 

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