By Maricel Seeger
BUENOS AIRES – Residents of the teeming Buenos Aires slum of Villa 31 have started a low-power television station that seeks to air the neighborhood’s needs and problems, the project’s promoters told Efe on Monday.
“There are 25 guys in the neighborhood working to gather news, while journalism workshops are being given by students from different universities,” Mundo Villa TV director Victor Ramos said.
The channel is financed by Ramos’ organization, SOS Discriminacion.
Mundo Villa TV reaches some 1,500 shantytown residents with original content and some programming from Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, countries where most of the residents hail from.
The channel has transmitted its first clips loaded with complaints about the problems facing the poor neighborhood, like the lack of electricity and drinking water, which “brought a lot of results” in helping to solve the problems, Ramos said.
“Officials got involved and now a water-distribution system is being built” in one part of the slum, the station director said.
Young people will also start broadcasting a news program next month, and in October a fashion program will be launched by Guido Fuentes, a Bolivian who founded a modeling school in the neighborhood, many of whose more than 30,000 residents live in flimsy, makeshift dwellings.
“This will be a program with interviews of girls from the school including a window on their lives, and with professional models making an appearance as well. We want to show that we have good people here and not bad guys as many think,” the designer Fuentes told Efe, adding that last December he staged a fashion show in the shantytown featuring the girls being trained there.
Mundo Villa TV, which has applied for its broadcasting license, has its own studios and equipment for airing its content, which includes movies and documentaries as well.
Also taking part in the production of original content are youths from the poor neighborhood of Bajo Flores on the southwest side of Buenos Aires, where residents have begun to “get reception of the signal,” Ramos said, adding that the government’s culture secretary has promised to supply the channel with new cameras.
The launch of the TV channel, in which Argentine filmmakers Norman Ruiz and Bruno Stagnaro also took part, “arose from (the residents’) need for a means of expression, because many media see the shantytowns as something negative,” Ramos said.
The channel’s director even expected that in the coming days he will meet with Argentine journalist Dante Quinterno, creator of TV ROC, based in the giant Rio de Janeiro shantytown Rocinha, to establish “a network of channels from Latin American slums.”
Many of the residents in Villa 31 came to Argentina from neighboring countries seeking a better future and found instead a lack of opportunities in a country where 13.9 percent of the population is below the poverty line, according to official figures, while the Catholic Church says the true figure is closer to 40 percent. EFE