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After several days in Merida, I realized that I had not heard any English language pop music yet either on the radio in my own listening, or in taxis, buses, stores, etc. In similar areas in Latin America that I have visited, there had always been at least one (usually more) radio stations that played all or nearly all English language pop music and these stations always had a lot of public airplay.

Similarly, in the past English pop records and cassettes were usually the key items in the display windows of Latin American music stores. However, in Andean Venezuela, English pop CDs and cassettes were rarely seen in display windows, and then off to the side in a non- prominent location.

According to several radio station and music store personnel that I spoke to, there has been a marked change over the past decade in the musical tastes of younger Venezuelans. English language pop and rock music is out of favor and Spanish-language pop and rock music (from a variety of countries) is in. Even tropical music has an audience among young people, including those in universities. (Tropical music has a more or less similar social position to that of country & western in the US.)

This change in musical tastes has affected the radio industry. In Merida, Radio 15-60 had an all-English pop format about five years ago, but now plays almost totally Spanish pop. Radio San Cristóbal similarly had an all-English pop format several years ago but now plays a ratio of about half and half during much of the day and only Spanish language music during a few particular periods. No one that I spoke to knew of a station today playing all English pop, and few with even a half-and-half format. Except for Radio San Cristóbal, all stations playing a significant amount of English pop were FM stations.

While this change in musical tastes is not directly a media item, I wonder to what extent it may reflect a broader more inward turn in interests among the population (especially younger Venezuelans) and a turn away from the outside as a major focus of culture. On the other hand, according to newspaper ads, movies showing in theaters were almost exclusively subtitled or dubbed American films. Of course, this is typical throughout the world. In fact, I saw an article in a Venezuelan newspaper about how Argentina's movie industry (one of the best in Latin America - it has even won an Oscar) is having trouble competing with American films in Argentina. Last year all Argentine films together grossed less in Argentina than Forrest Gump grossed in Argentina, and Forrest Gump wasn't even the best-grossing American film in Argentina last year.


While not exactly a media item, it is worth noting that cellular telephones are very widespread among the Venezuelan middle-class and higher. Many people carry cellular phones on their belts or in their purses. Also, I thought it was interesting that both family homes that I visited had cellular phones for use at home.

The cause for the widespread use of cellular telephones is clearly Venezuela's line-based telephone company, which has a reputation for problems and inefficiency. (However, the one call we made back to the US went through quickly and sounded better than at home). The line- based company, however, has recently been privatized and improvements are being made. However, I have read that cellular telephones may well replace the aging and inefficient line-based systems in many Third World countries, as the infrastructure required to put in a cellular system is far cheaper than that to install or upgrade a line-based system. From what I saw in Andean Venezuela, that is already happening.

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Association of North American Radio Clubs
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