San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

TV Is About to Get a Lot More Boring

Nicaraguans who flip through the TV channels complaining that there’s nothing interesting to watch are about to find out just how boring television can really get. Thanks to a new administrative decree by the Sandinista-controlled Telecommunications Regulation Institute (Telcor), TV viewers will soon be subjected 89 channels of President Daniel Ortega.

According to Telcor decree 009-2010, passed last week, all channels broadcast in Nicaragua – including satellite and cable feeds – will be forced to suspend their normal programming to carry Ortega’s semi-lucid addresses to the nation.

Apparently, the president feels that his family-controlled Sandinista media empire, which controls half a dozen TV and radio stations, isn’t enough to saturate the airwaves. So now every single channel on the cable box – from NBC, to CNN to ESPN – will carry Ortega’s windy discourses. From now on, people who tune into FOX to watch Glenn Beck rant and rave might instead catch an unintentional glimpse of Ortega ranting and raving.

No matter what channel viewers flip to during the president’s frequent national addresses, they’ll be treated to the theater of El Pueblo Presidente: Ortega will be seated in the middle, in front of a pleasant floral arrangement, droning on in his characteristic loose association peppered with repetitive rhetorical attacks against his enemies. At his right, wife Rosario Murillo will whisper orders to her minions in between sips of Perrier, and on his left will be one of the following stone-faced individuals: Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, Police Chief Aminta Granera, or Army Gen. Julio César Aviles, depending on the occasion.

This is truly must-see TV.

Not all of Ortega’s speeches will hijack the airwaves, however. According to the decree, only those addresses that are deemed to be of “national interest” will be broadcast live on every channel on the cable box.

The problem, of course, is that it’s up to Ortega to decide which of his speeches are of “national interest.”

As the 2011 presidential elections approach and Ortega enters full-blown campaign mode, it’s probably safe to bet that most of what Ortega says in the coming months will be considered “national interest” – at least by him and his wife.

As is often the case in Nicaragua, Telcor’s decree would be comical, if it weren’t so pathetic. In this case, however, the decision is indicative of the Orteguistas’ obsession with control.

Billboards of Ortega’s face plastering the city aren’t enough. Nor is the pro-Ortega graffiti spray painted all over buildings throughout the country. Nor is the constant propaganda broadcast on state media sufficient to get the message out. Nor is it enough that the Sandinistas have tried to paint all the lamp posts, curbs, trees and boulders in the country with red-and-black party colors. Nor is it enough that the Sandinistas have physically tried to assume control of all available public areas by sending state employees out to traffic circles to stand in the sun or rain and wave Sandinista flags in support of their dear leader.

The Sandinistas want to be everywhere in space and time. And so far, they’re doing a pretty good job fulfilling that mission.

However, Ortega and his Sandinista sycophants are mistaking omnipresence with omnipotence. Ortega will be no more convincing on 89 TV channels than he is on one.

The president is forgetting how easy it is to turn off the TV and pick up a book. In fact, Telcor’s decree could just be the most important contribution the Sandinista government makes to promoting literacy in Nicaragua.

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