RCN, one of Colombia’s two national television stations, recently launched “News in English”, a daily news show in English, hosted by U.S. anchor Brian Andrews, a friendly ‘mono’ with shiny white teeth and a charming smile.
Initially I was quite worried about the competition. If one of Colombia’s national broadcasters is going to do the same thing as we are doing, it wouldn’t be much of a fair game. But I forgot we weren’t talking about national broadcasters like we gringos are used to, we’re talking about RCN a.k.a. Radio Casa Nariño. They don’t know how to compete in a free market and they are yet to understand that “content is king”.
In a brief e-mail correspondence with Brian he mentioned the website currently has 5,000 hits per day, significantly more than Colombia Reports. Obviously I was a little jealous of the number. If we had that many hits per day we’d be making a profit.
But RCN is actually paying for the hits. They have bought advertising space on Google, assuring they’ll be on top of the list when people search for Colombian news, despite the fact they have no Google ranking. But what’s worse: they simply don’t have any news.
Take the morning news of Wednesday September 10: “Terrorists recruiting on campus”, the extradition of former minister Araújo, parking tickets in Bogotá, clowns in Barranquilla and an interview with musician Andres Cabas.
The “terrorists” were on Caracol the day before already and are really not anything new. The FARC is known for its recruiting of students on Colombian campuses. It’s been going on for years already. On one of the toilet doors in the University of Antioquia I saw “FARC-EP, SOMOS EL PUEBLO” (FARC-EP, we are the people) and no one is removing it. The extradition of Araújo also is old news, even AP had it Tuesday afternoon. Bogotá parking tickets and Barranquilla clowns I am not even going to comment. the only good thing was Brian’s interview with Andres Cabas.
What Brian’s Radio Casa Nariño refused or neglected to report was the trial on AUC members who slaughtered forty fishermen in 2000, the sacking of more Medellín prosecutors with ties to drug lord ‘Don Mario’ and government plans to yearly create 600,000 jobs.
RCN, having to prepare itself for a second competitor on the Colombian tv market, still thinks it can monopolize its way through the internet. They don’t need better content, they just need to sell it better.
This makes me worried about Brian’s future, because sooner or later, depending on the millions of pesos RCN is losing each month, Radio Casa Nariño will find out “this doesn’t work”. I think it worries Brian too. He’s from Florida, seems intelligent and educated, so he knows something’s not right.
What has worked for years in Colombia will not work on the internet and will certainly not work with an international target group. When we look for news, we actually want news, we want to be informed. We do not want to be taken to some website that simply is trying to sell us nonsense, ‘farandula’ and is forgetting to actually tell us what happened in Colombia today.
Brian in the meantime has gone not to reporting, but to contacting other gringo media in Colombia promoting a gentleman’s agreement to “support each other”, something that makes me terribly suspicious in a country that’s built on oligarchies, trusts and attempts to monopolize markets.
Colombia Reports in the meantime, with a hell of a lot of goodwill from the mostly voluntary staff, will continue focusing on bringing the daily news and offers a cup of fresh, home made coffee to all who are contributing to a better reporting on and in Colombia.
Adriaan Alsema is editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports