How La Red's crisis was forged |  DFMAS

It was always temporary. When in May 2020, Víctor Gutiérrez accepted Remigio Ángel González’s offer to assume the executive management of La Red, he did so on one condition: to work only one year to command the ship and control the finances. of the television channel. And although the mandate was extended for a few more months, in October 2021 he informed the Mexican-Guatemalan businessman of his intention to leave the position. Three months later, in January this year, he officially presented his letter of resignation, but the leaders of Albavisión, the holding company that owns the channel, asked him to stay longer. However, on Thursday of last week – after his trip to Miami, where he managed to receive financial support from the parent company – he already had a decision made: to leave the chain at all costs. And on Monday, in the midst of a strike by journalists who were behind in their salaries and contributions and who interrupted the live programming of the signal, his departure was officially recorded.

Since taking over as executive director, Víctor Gutiérrez has managed to command the channel’s money. He fired senior executives and cut spending on programs. And that, say internal sources, he did it without financial assistance, since BancoEstado rejected a request to obtain a Fogape loan in 2020. In addition, they have experts, he promoted cultural programming -like its alliance with the Municipal Theater of Santiago- and political programs such as Free Pattern, Power and Truth and Loaded Coffee. In terms of rating, it went from an average of 1.5 to 2.8, which generated an increase in advertising in flagship programs. But it wasn’t enough.

During his administration, controversies also took place: the interview with Marcelo Hernández Norambuena from the high security prison, the report establishing links between Sebastián Piñera and the Enjoy casino, the screening of the documentary The Battle of Chile, the decision not to participate in the Teletón and the disconnection of the measuring counters of Kantar Ibope were some of the milestones of these two years of administration.

The movement of coins inside the channel goes beyond Gutiérrez. In May, Cristián Giralt resigned from the commercial management, after only six months in office. Additionally, Marcelo Pandolfo, director of engineering, was left behind as temporary executive director.

In the middle of this week, the strike began to disarm. Salaries for the month of May have already been paid and dues will be in order before June 14th. For faces and senior executives, April and May pay was also paid out.

But what led to the financial crisis that La Red is going through today? The channel’s sources point to various causes, including historic indebtedness, weak corporate governance and little financial support from its parent company, Albavisión.

Dupla Gutiérrez-González

Albavisión is one of the largest media conglomerates in Latin America. The holding company controls more than 40 television channels, dozens of newspapers, five cinemas and more than 50 radio stations in 15 countries in the region. However, in recent years they have had financial problems and been involved in various controversies caused by their owner, Remigio Ángel González. In 2016, his name appeared in the investigation of the Panama Papers and he was also accused of having participated in the conspiracy of irregular financing of the electoral campaigns of the Patriotic Party in Guatemala.

These events meant that, according to various well-informed sources, the parent company “forgot” La Red: “They tried to inject more capital, to support us with programming, but it was not possible. With this in mind, Víctor had to resign,” a signal source comments. In the environment of the television channel, it is said that La Red has been the only Chilean private channel where its controller has not regularly supported them with capital (which happened with Mega, Chilevisión and Canal 13).

Albavisión also owns Telecanal, the product of a complex corporate network. This was questioned by the National Television Council (CNTV).

The same body, in the session of February 21, 2022, agreed to initiate sanction proceedings against La Red for a possible violation of the deadline for commissioning a digital television broadcasting concession in Puerto Montt.

Víctor Gutiérrez has worked at Albavisión for more than 20 years and is one of the closest executives to González, known in the television industry as “El Fantasma”, precisely because he disappears for long periods. . The businessman does not give interviews, and in fact there are not many photos of him on the Internet. “Chile never interested him. He only came once, in 1999, for a few hours. He was in the offices of Manquehue and found them ugly, ”says an internal source.

In fact, the channel comments that during various periods of his administration, Víctor Gutiérrez – like José Manuel Larraín – took money out of his pocket to keep the channel’s finances afloat. He also increased the salaries of historical workers and succeeded in generating an internal mystique. “For the first time, La Red got a position. Every evening, Mentiras Verdaderas generated hot topics,” commented a journalist.

According to financial statements submitted to the Financial Market Commission, last year they totaled losses of $10,009 million, being the only chain to report red numbers. This figure worried the main executives of Albavisión, since they were four times higher than the losses of 2020 (2,219 million dollars). Compared to the first quarter of this year, profits of $1.97 billion were recorded, while revenues increased by 51% compared to the same period in 2021. However, gross margin remains critical. The main expenses of the last quarter were related to personnel (which increased by 76% last year).

In addition, after an extraordinary meeting of shareholders on March 9, they announced in the Official Journal a capital increase from $16,480 million to $39,059 million. The additional 22,000 million dollars “are deposited in the social fund through the capitalization of credits against the company”, subscribed and paid by the company Televideo Chile SA However, sources inside the channel affirm that this increase in capital remained without effect.

The Infomercial Anchor

There’s a saying repeated in different circles on the channel: “The network is mortgaged with infomercials.” And, in a way, that’s true. A significant portion of the signal’s revenue comes from these types of programs, which occupy 55% of the television station’s total transmission.

“It’s an anchor that leaders can’t get rid of. They are with the contracts signed until 2023. This comes from past decisions, even before José Manuel Larraín”, specifies an expert, who adds that the income from this type of content covers the basic expenses of the channel. “Years ago they had problems with electricity bills. Gutiérrez tried never to touch the workers’ wages, but there came a time when things got unsustainable and the parent company’s promises weren’t kept.

The power of infomercials is coupled with the amount of packaged content that comes from outside that would not match the times of the local industry. “We were the first to broadcast Sex and the City, great, but here we are going for the twentieth time”, comments a historical executive. Additionally, it would disrupt the station’s attempts to generate its own programming and achieve a sustainable channel over time.

Precisely, tight finances prevented La Red from opening a press office.

Who will achieve executive leadership? It’s still a mystery, but in the corridors of the canal it is said that it will be someone “from the outside”, who is not from Albavisión or La Red. “This causes a lot of concern among the workers, because someone who does not know the internal logics can come from the chain”, opines a journalist.

On Wednesday night, La Red was once again a trending topic. TV and political personalities have spoken out about the channel’s situation and criticized how little notice the TV channel has gotten. Indeed, Daniel Jadue has once again revived the idea of ​​a media law which aims to generate a financial contribution for communication companies so that they do not depend solely on advertising.

For now, the delicate internal context of La Red has already triggered the alarms of the National Association of Television of Chile (Anatel), an organization chaired by Pablo Vidal and which is already looking for ways to improve the situation of the chain .

This week, the question of the sale of the chain resurfaced, however, it remains unknown. But one executive sums it up like this: “With everything going on, the options are reopening, anything can happen.”

The $55 million fraud indictment

On October 20, 2020, La Red filed a complaint against Alejandro Valenzuela in the 13th Court of Guarantee of Santiago for the alleged crime of fraud.

In the lawsuit, they establish that in 2019 Valenzuela posed as a “corporate business lawyer, who was creating new business lines, which is why he was forced to to use advertising services for his company Inversiones Legal Chile”.

At first, he reportedly hired the ad for $16.5 million, the equivalent of eight minutes of screen time. In a second occasion, he signed for 15 minutes for the True Lies program for $39,270,000.

According to La Red, they never received the payments and they never learned any details about Valenzuela or Inversiones Legal Chile.

“At the time, we started to receive complaints from people who had been scammed by Alejandro Valenzuela, those who came to him because of the publicity we had done, and they told us that Valenzuela had cheated them since ‘He charged them for procedures he never performed, and some ended up losing their assets,’ they wrote in the document.

The complaint was declared admissible and is currently under investigation by the public prosecutor.

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