Main Venezuela Menu Venezuela Media Study Main Menu What's New Best of this Site Radio History



As noted above, I heard about half-again as many Colombian AM stations as Venezuelans in my monitoring in Venezuela. Colombian radio clearly has a presence in western Venezuela. Colombia has about twice as many AM stations as Venezuela, and western Venezuela is almost as close to the central populated core of Colombia as it is to the equivalent area of Venezuela. Also, I think the mountains of western Venezuela act as a sort of funnel for transmissions from the direction of Colombia, while simultaneously blocking signals from the Caracas area.

This Colombian presence does not go unnoticed in Venezuela. Many radio people that I talked to complained of the dominant Colombian presence on AM. And, apparently, Venezuelans do listen. The family we stayed with in Merida tuned in Caracol news on AM one evening and on my bus from Valera to San Cristobal, the driver tuned in Caracol for about thirty minutes. I also noted Colombian stations in the Cucuta area greeting Venezuelan listeners, and Venezuelan station in Tachira state greeting Colombian listeners.

Despite their complaints, Venezuelan radio personnel clearly respect the Colombian radio industry. They spoke in glowing, sometimes awed, terms about Caracol and RCN, Colombia's two largest networks. As noted above, some stations such as Radio San Sebastian and Radio 1560 monitor Caracol and RCN for international news. At Radio 1560, they even monitored Caracol for coverage of the 1992 US election returns.

Coincidentally, I also monitored some of Caracol's coverage of the 1992 US presidential election returns and found it to be quite good and up-to-the-minute in giving results as reported on the US television networks. Obviously, they were monitoring US sources and reporting immediately. However, they also had some direct feeds as they carried (with translation in foreground) Vice-President Quayle's concession speech live before the US TV networks even mentioned that he was giving one. The US TV networks carried a brief video feed several minutes after the event. Although I can't recall now, Caracol may have had reporters in the US to cover the election. I do recall hearing a Caracol reporter (or stringer, perhaps) live from Israel during the Gulf War.

The strength and professionalism of Caracol and RCN should not be underestimated. Both have excellent news departments and do a very good job of covering international news. I am especially familiar with Caracol in this regard, as I listen to them frequently on 5075 kHz shortwave in the US. On the other hand, both (but especially Caracol) are frequently criticized because they belong to the huge conglomerates that control Colombia's legal economy. Many consider the networks to be biased representatives of Colombia's upper-classes.

For national coverage, both Caracol and RCN have an extensive web of network-owned stations throughout the country. In fact, RCN has two such nationwide groups, RCN (sometimes referred to as RCN basico on the air) and Antena Dos. Many of these are previously independent stations purchased by the networks and given generic network names such as Caracol Barranquilla or RCN Sogamoso (according to the city of location). Caracol even has an affiliate in the USA, Caracol Miami. However, these are not simply relay transmitters. While they do carry the main network hub from Bogota much of the broadcast day (and in the overnight slot), the regional stations also have their own staffs and produce local news and sports programs and give local station identifications. Most importantly, they act as regional news bureaus and reports from regional stations around the country are an important part of national newscasts on both Caracol and RCN.

In addition to the network-owned web, many privately-owned stations are affiliated with Caracol or RCN and carry network newscasts or sports programming at certain times of day. Network affiliations are sometimes mentioned during station identification announcements even when there is no network programming. This seems to act as a promotion for the network.

There are, of course, other Colombian radio networks. The only ones with a national presence are Todelar and Super, both commercial, and the evangelical Colmundo network. However, these networks are not in the same league as Caracol and RCN, in terms of market dominance, news coverage, number of stations, etc.


As mentioned above, I made a short (three hour) visit to Cucuta, Colombia while in Tachira state. Cucuta seemed very similar to nearby San Cristobal, in that both were relatively modern business-oriented cities. Populations are about the same. Cucuta's central business district was larger than San Cristobal's, but had few high rises compared to San Cristobal. Cucuta seemed to be a very friendly, safe city. Many Venezuelans had told me that Cucuta does not have the drug- trade and crime problems that one finds in a few other Colombian cities.

As I was mostly in Cucuta on a shopping trip, I did not take the time to visit any radio stations. However, I did come across an electronics market - that is a large building with small stalls and stores inside that sell electronics goods. Markets such as this are common in Latin America for food, clothing, and lower-priced consumer goods. However, the only other dedicated electronics-market I've ever seen in Latin America was in Arica, Chile. Regardless, the Cucuta vendors had a similar selection of shortwave receivers as I had seen in Venezuela. Many had the International/Suny/Sonivox eight-band receiver for similar prices and several had Aiwa old-style analog receivers. The only name-brand receivers were a Sony SW-10 at $90 and a ICF-7601 at $112. Aside from the electronics market, I did not see any electronics or appliance stores while wandering the central business district.


Unlike nearby Venezuela, newspapers in Cucuta (I won't speculate on the rest of Colombia) are sold by vendors who place their wares on plastic sheets or wire racks on the sidewalk. This is not so permanent as the kiosks of Venezuela, but more so than the wandering newspeople of Central America or Ecuador and Peru. Like their Venezuelan counterparts, Cucuta's newspaper vendor do not seem particularly aggressive. In my three hours in the city, I was not asked once if I wanted a newspaper.

When I arrived in Cucuta about 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, one of the first things I did was stop by a vendor to pick up some papers. I was surprised to note that other than the local La Opinion and La Nacion from San Cristobal, all the papers were from the previous day. The vendor explained that that day's papers from other cities would arrive in about an hour. Sure enough, around noon I noted a truck unloading several bundles of newspapers for a vendor. I find it somewhat surprising that a city of Cucuta's size would get national newspapers so late in the day. By contrast, in Venezuela even small cities like Trujillo and El Vigia had the Caracas newspapers by 8:30 a.m. Perhaps the reason for the national papers arriving in Cucuta so late has to do with airline schedules.

EL TIEMPO, Bogota, January 10, 1995. Once the out-of-town newspapers arrived, there were several from Bogota. I picked up El Tiempo because I knew it to be the best in Colombia. In fact, when I was in graduate school at Ohio University, the library subscribed to the Sunday edition of El Tiempo and I was a regular reader. This was the first time I had seen a weekday edition, however, and I found it to be up to the high standards I expected.

Page one of the first section was all national news and immediately inside were two pages of domestic editorials. After several pages of national and local news, there was a three page section (no ads) of international news beginning on page nine. Larger articles covered topics such as the murder of some Colombians in New York City, politics in Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, France, and Italy, US financial help for Mexico, and Republican criticism of President Clinton for his positions on Bosnia and Chechen. There were also several small one paragraph or less items.

Section B was devoted entirely to economics, with a selection of articles on both national and international topics. It also included the two page Wall Street Journal feature as found in Venezuela's El Nacional. Section C was a special weekly insert on computers. There was a selection of articles on the Internet, various hardware and software, and an interview with Bill Gates, focusing in part on Microsoft's Colombian operations. Finally, section D was the "Life" section, with social articles, sports, comics, etc.

I found El Tiempo to be a very good and interesting newspaper. Like its Venezuelan counterparts, it is no New York Times, but, like them, it is every bit as good as newspapers like The Des Moines Register.

EL COLOMBIANO, Medellin, January 10, 1995. Medellin is Colombia's second city in importance, so I wasn't surprised to find it has a good widely-distributed newspaper. Section one on this day began with national news on the front page. Actually, the main story was international of sorts, as it was about the murder of a group of Colombians in New York City. The opinion section took up pages two and three. The editorials were all about local and national issues except for one on China after Deng. This was followed by several pages of international news. There was a very long article on the Chechen situation, shorter ones on Israel and Chiapas, and another very long one on corruption in Guatemala. These were accompanied by many short one-paragraph news stories from around the world. Section one ended with two pages of local and national news.

The first page of the second section featured articles on the domestic economy. The second section was rounded off with classifieds, art, cinema, music, and sports. In coverage of international and national news, El Colombiano was certainly equal to Maracaibo's Panorama. The international articles were from the AFP press service and quite good. I wonder, however, how they would treat a story about one of Medellin's drug lords.

LA OPINION, Cucuta, January 10, 1995. This is Cucuta's only local daily newspaper and, surprisingly I thought, was every bit as good as El Colombiano from much larger Medellin. There was a lot of international news, but it was scattered throughout the paper. Section A was mostly national and local news, except for articles on Chechen and the upcoming Peruvian elections. There were two pages of editorials on local and national issues only.

The first page of the second section was devoted to a lengthy article on Eriteria. There was no press service byline, but it was written by Edith Lederer, not exactly a Spanish name, so I guess it was a translation from somewhere. Inside were several general interest articles and one on Spain in the nineteen years since General Franco's death. The entire back page of this section was given over to computer articles.

Section C was divided between sports in the front and more in-depth international news in the back. There was a lengthy Reuters article on Chechen, mid-length articles on an assassination plot in Honduras, and politics or economics in Israel, Brazil, and Mexico, as well as several very short items.

While El Colombiano and La Opinion were not as good of newspapers as El Tiempo, I would still have to rank them to nearly El Tiempo's level in terms of international coverage, at least from the one day that I saw. Considering that these newspapers represent the premier newspaper from the capital, a major one from the second city, and the daily of a mid-size city, there appears to be adequate coverage of international news in the Colombian press.

Continue to next part -- Return to Table of Contents


This article is copyright 1995 by Don Moore. It may not be printed in any publication without written permission. Permission is granted for all interested readers to share and pass on the ASCII text file of this article or to print it out for personal use. In such case, your comments on the article would be appreciated.

This website is maintained by Don Moore,
Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995

My Address Is In This Graphic