Public TV network cancels programming amid fears it could become a ‘black screen’

Only two daily newscasts remain on air. Ten columnists and hosts have had their contracts terminated

Public news channel TV Pública’s programming will be canceled on Wednesday on the grounds that there is “no money,” a slogan President Javier Milei has used to justify his administration’s harsh austerity measures.

Live weekend newscasts and all pre-recorded shows had already been canceled, such as Mothers of Plaza de Mayo’s Madres de la Plaza. Only two daily newscasts will remain on air, and employees say the station’s authorities warned them that the alternatives were to either take these measures or turn the channel into a “black screen.”

“We found out a week ago that all live shows will be lifted,” said TV Pública reporter and Buenos Aires Press Union (SiPreBA in Spanish) representative Silvia Fernández. Out of the current four daily newscasts, only the noon and evening shows will remain, as well as a weekly edition devoted to international news.

Argentina is heading towards an extra-long weekend because of Holy Week (Thursday and Friday) and Malvinas Veterans Day — although the holiday is Tuesday, April 2, Monday will also be a holiday for tourist reasons. This is why Wednesday, March 27, will be the last day of the current TV schedule. The news shows that remain on air will be back on April 3.

One of the only remaining live shows is Cocineros Argentinos, a cooking show that has been the station’s highest ranking program for the past 15 years. Except for the newscast, all programs are co-productions with private companies, making it hard to know how many people will lose their jobs after the cuts, Fernández explained. Cocineros Argentinos will air live for the last time on Wednesday.

Milei has been threatening to close or privatize all public outlets since before becoming president. TV Pública was originally included in a list of 40 public companies flagged to be privatized within his flag-ship omnibus bill, which was sent back to commissions. 

Last month, the government virtually shut down public news agency Télam. Its employees have been on compulsory paid leave since March 4. The website currently shows a sign saying “under reconstruction.”

“The [authorities’] say there is no budget,” Fernández said. The channel is currently operating with the same budget as 2022, since last year’s national budget was not debated in Congress. Accumulated inflation since 2022 has been 325%.

News manager Fabián Gijón, the only authority workers have had contact with, was the one who told them that “there is no money.” Channel director Juan Parodi filed his resignation last Friday, and Wednesday will be his last day.

While no permanent staff members have been fired yet, the channel’s authorities decided not to renew the contracts of 10 columnists and hosts. “They’re always hired under annual contracts because each administration chooses its  newscasts’ hosts,” Fernández clarified.

Their contracts originally expired on December 31, but were renewed until February 29. They worked in March without a contract. The union is now asking for them to be hired as permanent staff or that their contracts be renewed, given they worked for the past month without a contract and under the promise of getting paid.

“They just told us we wouldn’t continue working,” said technology columnist Irina Sternik, one of the 10 employees that will be on air for the last time on Wednesday. According to SiPreBA, in recent weeks “new employees were hired to occupy those positions, without facing a suitability contest, which indicates that this is not a budget issue.”

“I feel sadness and helplessness,” Sternik lamented. “I know the channel’s structures need improvement. I wish the government had taken that route, because in the first few months we were excited to make things better. In my case, I no longer have the opportunity to do so.”

Since Milei took office, the channel’s workers have faced several censorship situations. On Sunday, since the weekend newscast was canceled, there was no coverage of the Day of Memory, Truth, and Justice for the first time in its history. However, TV Pública workers, along with Télam’s, streamed a news show on SiPreBA’s YouTube channel on Sunday evening.

For International Women’s Day, on March 8, employees were explicitly instructed not to interview protesters or feminist group leaders, according to Fernández. They also banned any news that mentioned union leaders Eduardo Belliboni, Pablo Moyano, and Sergio Palazzo, among other things, she added.

“We have a wide federal agenda, which sadly will be lost,” Fernández said. 

“Public-sector workers are being stigmatized, including those from TV Pública,” Sternik said. “Far from earning huge amounts of money, our jobs are precarious and our salaries scarce, in contrast to what the public believes.”


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