Peru's TV Station Takes its Presidential Election Coverage to New Levels

Jun 152011

All the polls leading up to the June 5 runoff election indicated it would be a tight race between Nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses. How best to serve voters and viewers?

All the polls leading up to the June 5 runoff election indicated it would be a tight race between Nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses. How best to serve voters and viewers?

To say this was a difficult decision for Peru is an understatement. On the one hand Humala, awakening fears of a Venezuela-like takeover due to his ties with that country’s President Hugo Chávez; on the other, Fujimori, stirring old memories of her father’s controversial past. No wonder Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa described it as having to choose between getting AIDS, or cancer.

However, most of the philosophical political conflict was centered in Lima, as is usually the case in such a highly centralized country as Peru. The popularity of Humala and Fujimori in the provinces baffled those in the capital. Proof of that is that during the first round on April 10th, candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, an economist and former Minister of Energy and Mines, dominated in Lima, which houses a third of Peru’s population. However, he came in third behind Humala and Fujimori.

On Election Day, the two top candidates battled it out, with Humala being voted as the next president of Peru, much to the confusion of many in Lima.

That is precisely why a program like Enlace Nacional is so important for the political discourse in Peru. The fact is the popularity of these two candidates had been evident months before, and was reflected in the types of stories Enlace Nacional was airing. The problem is most of the national newscasts are broadcast from Lima to the provinces. Enlace Nacional produces a show from the provinces to Lima.

And that is precisely the biggest obstacle for coverage, which has to do with the way Enlace Nacional is set up. Since it uses stories from the affiliate stations in the provinces, it must wait until they’ve aired in their respective cities first. This usually means the news is 24 hour old by the time it airs.

However, on Election Day June 5th, Enlace Nacional had its first live coverage of an event by taking everything online to www.enlacenacional.com, truly bringing its affiliate stations into the coverage, providing news as it happened; taking advantage of the available technology.

Enlace Nacional had stories from Arequipa, Tacna, Trujillo, Villa El Salvador, and Pucallpa (the trained stations) starting at 11am, which were uploaded to YouTube, then posted onto their Facebook pages, and then linked to the Enlace Nacional page. UTV in Pucallpa didn't have a show, but they sent a crew in that day just to produce a story for Enlace Nacional (with no additional pay or compensation, I must add.)

Some highlights:

  • We had our first Skype report from Tacna, outside a polling station!! And another report via Skype, inside Villa TV 45's newsroom.

  • Tacna and Villa El Salvador updated their FB and Twitter pages frequently throughout the day, with comments, information from other media, as well as uploading their reports and photos. The others did so sporadically during the day, with the exception of Pucallpa whose FB page was down.

  • Enlace Nacional anchor Yovany Quintana did a Skype live shot for Telemundo in Los Angeles. Her first live shot, and an international one to boot!

  • Enlace Nacional provided five live streaming interviews from their set on their website, starting at 6pm.

  • Three people in Lima updated the EN website, FB page and Twitter feed, including information from the affiliates, as well as from other media outlets.

  • All six trained stations provided stories to air on Monday's TV program, sending them via ftp before the 11pm deadline.

  • We were basically able to provide coverage from five regions of Peru, doubling traffic to our website, in real time.

The purpose of the Knight Fellowship in Peru has been to make these technological tools available to the journalists in the small TV stations operating in the provinces. The biggest obstacle has been the lack of Internet coverage, and the weakness of the connections which makes sending anything extremely difficult. Still, that immediacy is what these journalists need to move on to their next role: that of proper watchdogs of the new administration, to make sure the promises made during the