Américas Política Internacional

Limits and paradox of TeleSUR: the media as a political agent of regional (dis)integration, an interview with Mônica Lessa and Pablo Fontes, by Sara Riodrigues

Envisaged and accomplished during the Chávez government, TeleSUR is a multistate network with presence both in television and Youtube that has been created in 2005 to be a platform to the many voices of Latin America as well to foster regional integration. With that in mind, the article “Limits and paradox of TeleSUR: the media as a political agent of regional (dis)integration” (vol. 63, n. 1) written by Dr. Mônica Leite Lessa and Pablo Victor Fontes aims to understand the role of TeleSUR in the process of regional integration and identity construction in Latin America. Their research discusses why the broadcaster has been created and to what extent it has been able to promote regional, cultural and media integration. In order to achieve such objectives the article discusses the place of communication in international politics and, by doing so, contributes to fill the gap between Communication studies and International Relations theories. The authors were interviewed by Sara Domingos Rodrigues, member of the promotion staff of RBPI, regarding their views on topics related to their research

One of the aspects pointed in the article about the content made by TeleSUR is the lack of representation of Latin minorities such as the mestizos. Members of that group have not been indifferent to this exclusion and have expressed their dissatisfaction. What kind of reaction you have observed throughout your research?

One of the limits of TeleSUR’s project, pointed in the article, was the difficulty of the institution to contemplate equally in the programs it produced the different Venezuelan cultural, political and ethnical identities. Many of those minority groups did not stop themselves from expressing their dissatisfaction about the situation. This absence and/or limited political-mediatic representation of the different minority groups, some socially recognized as subaltern, prevents, and therefore, limits a plurality of voices to, at least, reach some sort of audience. This hinders certain headways on policies as well as political actions that aim to combat the structural violence forced directly and indirectly by the state upon theses populations. Representation and participation can be a way of the civil society, using the means of communication (in this case one that has been used to foster regional integration), to question the exclusions that those groups suffer on their day-by-day. During the research we have observed that many of those minority groups, but not only them, try through diverse issues, agendas and political perspectives to create forms of resistance and insurgence against the media diktats. Retaliations, critics and alternatives have been designed by those who do not feel contemplated by the issues discussed and the forms of representation of TeleSUR. The alternatives searched would consist on the creation of communitarian means that make content with an aesthetics, language and cultural values identified with those groups, giving, hence, the sense of belonging. We cannot affirm that these communication means are the best and if in fact they can reach an audience that feels contemplated. Nevertheless, we can say that in an digital era changes and the breaking of communication paradigms have been instrumentalized.

TeleSUR, by trying to build an anti-hegemonic discourse that incorporated the plurality of Latin American voices, ended up reproducing a colonialist narrative that presented the peoples of Latin America homogenously. Having that in mind, do you believe that one can claim that the construction of a Latin American identity is a challenge to the public and media diplomacies of the Latin countries?

We have attested that TeleSUR has developed discourses with anti-systemic practices that have neither prevented nor invalidated its limitations and paradoxes inherent to the regional integration process especially in what concerns identities. When the Latin American regionalism was considered by the multi-state media broadcasting station, it should have considered the political circumstances which may be adverse and complex in face of the political values and objectives that might go against the perspectives of the political-mediatic values of the network. Furthermore, TeleSUR should have understood the idiosyncrasies and complexities around the regional and national identities and process of identification. Once TeleSUR understands the identities differences and pluralities, it has as a constant challenge to not only respect, but also to represent different minority groups on several communication platforms (digital and traditional). More than simply political and mediatic representation, minorities groups should have a bigger insertion in mediatic participation, especially when we notice the particularities and contradictions inherent to democracies and political representations. Once the different issues surrounding regional integration are understood, deconstructions should be some of the political-mediatic strategies adopted by the network, especially, when they entail themes such as culture, media and politics on the era of globalization. In the face of that, the public and mediatic diplomacies as concepts/mechanisms employed not only on regional integration but also on the foreign policies of countries/regions need to comprehend that the identity process should be analysed as models that are constantly being redesigned. Therefore, there is no fixed, final, point. On the contrary frontiers are in continuous movement.

One question brought by the article is the incorporation of Communication Studies by International Relations Theories, a field still little explored. Do you believe that a larger discussion about the role of communication on the international relations by the theories could contribute to the building of more satisfactory strategies of public and media diplomacies in what concerns the strengthening of regional integration?

The field of International Relations is, historically, a multidisciplinary one. However, when we observe the communication and culture studies, we notice many gaps that could and should be filled, having in mind the synergies that exist between these areas of knowledge. In Brazil, specifically, there is a resistance inside the academic community to recognize and understand the connexions between these fields. There are few lectures (mandatory and optional) both in the undergraduate and graduate levels about communications and international relations that are offered. The history of Social Communication, the theories of Communication and Journalism are not discussed in International Relations studies. The former, nevertheless, have a lot to teach, particularly, when we understand the (re)designs that can be reflected on the International System Architecture due to the impact of the media. On the domain of studies and analyses about Regional Integration, which are limited and more often than not lacking critical sense, the little engagement with Communications studies makes it difficult to observe and reflect beyond the strategies, the potential that can be extracted of the media and applied on the public, media and cultural diplomacies. In different process of regional integration media could, respecting the specificity, complexities and contradictions of each process, play a role in redesigning theories beyond the institutionalisms that come from European thought. In Latin America the media (in different platforms) should be studied and reflected by the Epistemic Communities from their own realities, respecting the persistent colonialism on the region as a way to understand the idiosyncrasies between the diktats about the political sphere and the communication instruments, particularly in an digital era when technologies gain every day more space and legitimacy on the global (dis)governance.

Read the article

Lessa, Mônica Leite, & Fontes, Pablo Victor. (2020). Limits and paradox of TeleSUR: the media as a political agent of regional (dis)integration. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 63(1), e002. Epub March 09, 2020.

About the authors

Mônica Leite Lessa, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Relações Internacionais, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pablo Victor Fontes, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Institute of International Relations, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sara Rodrigues, University of Brasilia, Institute of International Relations. Brasília, Brazil

How to cite this interview

Cite this article as: Editoria, "Limits and paradox of TeleSUR: the media as a political agent of regional (dis)integration, an interview with Mônica Lessa and Pablo Fontes, by Sara Riodrigues," in Revista Mundorama, 14/03/2020,