Caracas, January 24th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Saturday, Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) temporarily closed six national cable television channels for failure to comply with the country’s Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.
The media law establishes standards for child and adult programming, prohibits racist, sexist or inflammatory content and incitement to violence, places limits on commercial advertising, and requires stations to broadcast important government announcements.
Among those sanctioned was opposition-aligned television channel Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). In April 2002, RCTV, together with Venezuela’s private business chamber FEDECAMARAS and other sectors, participated in the military coup against President Hugo Chavez. In addition to pre-recording and broadcasting statements by top military generals involved in the coup, RCTV broadcasted false and manipulated images, imposed a blackout on coverage of anti-coup protests and welcomed the instalment of the coup regime.
In May 2007, RCTV failed to win renewal of its free-to-air broadcasting licence because of its multiple violations of the media law including the incitement of violent opposition riots.
At the time, much of the international media reported that RCTV had been “closed down” by the Chavez government; however the station has continued its operations in Venezuela broadcasting via cable and satellite with its television studios located just blocks from the presidential offices.
Last July, CONATEL announced that cable broadcasters would undergo review and be subject to the media law if 70% of their content and overall operations were considered to be domestic. Following the announcement, RCTV designated itself as an “international” broadcaster in order to avoid the media regulations.
However, Director of CONATEL Diosdado Cabello, who is also Minister for Public Works and Infrastructure, said last Thursday that the review process determined that more than 90 percent of RCTV’s production and content is domestic and it must therefore abide by Venezuelan regulations “as in other countries.” Overall 105 channels were classified as national, while 164 were classified as international.
Following the reclassification, RCTV refused to broadcast a government announcement on Saturday and was subsequently sanctioned with a temporary closure.
“What a coincidence,” Cabello said on Sunday, referring to RCTV’s failure to comply with the regulations. The minister said that RCTV can reinitiate broadcasting after registering as a domestic producer, and then it will be monitored for four months to ensure compliance with the law.
RCTV has repeatedly broadcast inflammatory material and material inciting violence. Eleven days ago, on January 13, the station broadcast an interview with current FEDECAMARAS president Noel Álvarez, invoking a coup d’etat by calling for a “military solution” to the political situation in Venezuela.
During his weekly talk show on Sunday, President Chavez said the decision to go off the air was made by RCTV itself. “They refuse to obey the law… that’s a decision for them, not us,” he said.
Other channels sanctioned for failing to comply with the law included the American Network, America TV, and TV Chile. The government has also encouraged cable network service providers to remove channels that fail to comply with the regulations.