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"Cambio" magazine moves away from political news, its managers say the change is a result of their critical editorial stance

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 3 February 2010, the Casa Editorial El Tiempo (CEET), which publishes the national weekly "Cambio" magazine, announced in a press release that the publication will change direction to become a monthly general interest magazine for financial reasons. The focus of "Cambio" has been political and national news. The magazine's directors, who have been dismissed from their positions, have said that the real reason for the change has to do with their editorial stance.

In it's press release, the CEET, whose largest shareholder is the Spanish Grupo Planeta company, cited a global decline in the number of political magazines as a result of changes in readership, and, as a consequence, a concomitant shift in advertising moneys as the reason for the change in direction.

However, Rodrigo Pardo, the magazine's managing editor, and María Elvira Samper, the general editor, said the decision is related to the publication's editorial stance as it has carried articles about corruption allegations that have affected a number of government officials. Samper told FLIP that "reliable sources" close to the directors of the CEET have said that the managers of the media conglomerate were displeased with the magazine's critical stance. She noted that both she and Pardo constantly received "subliminal messages" from the CEET board of directors in which it was "suggested" that they avoid touching on certain topics.

In addition, Samper said she does not believe the argument of financial difficulties that was presented, because the magazine had shown a profit over the last year, while other publications produced by the same publisher lost money but have not been shut down.

When the CEET announced the change in focus of the magazine, they told Samper and Pardo that "Cambio" in its previous format would wrap up at the end of the February and that, as such, they could expect to produce three more editions. However, Samper told FLIP that, on 8 February, the CEET directors changed their minds and announced that everything would come to a close earlier and that the 11 February edition would not be circulated. According to Samper, this decision was made because the subsequent edition of "Cambio" was going to focus on the closure as a political magazine and would include several articles in which the magazine's change of direction and the belief that it was due to the editorial stance would be discussed. Samper and Pardo had announced their intention to cover this topic during a meeting of the magazine's editorial committee.

Finally, the decision to change the magazine's direction was made within the framework of an upcoming government decision that will allow for a third private television broadcaster in Colombia. Grupo Planeta is the only company thus far interested in being awarded the licence for the television station. According to some media outlets, the changes at "Cambio" could be interpreted as an attempt by Grupo Planeta to ingratiate itself with the government in order to obtain the television licence.

FLIP understands the economic climate that print media outlets are facing and the necessity of making adjustments as a result of that situation. The organisation also recognises and defends the autonomy of media conglomerates to select their publications, to close or open new ones and to dismiss managers, journalists and columnists within the confines of the law. However, FLIP is concerned at the possibility that the objective of the recent changes at "Cambio" could be to shut down investigations and avoid the publication of complaints or critical perspectives. The organisation is especially alarmed over the possibility that "Cambio" has been shut down as a result of its journalistic content and, as its managers have said, that the publication of one of its final editions has been halted due to the topics that were going to be covered.

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