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Venezuela21 May 2007

Supreme Court rules RCTV’s appeal against loss of its licence “inadmissible”

Reporters Without Borders condemns the decision of the Venezuela Supreme Court to rule an appeal by Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) against the loss of its licence as “inadmissible”. The appeal, lodged on 9 February 2007, was rejected on 18 May, putting a stop to any further debate. President Hugo Chávez said on 28 December 2006 that he would oppose renewal of the group’s broadcast licence, accusing the channel of having supported the 11 April 2002 coup attempt in which he was briefly overthrown. According to the government the licence expired on 27 May 2007, a date contested by RCTV, which insists its licence is valid until 2022. Without waiting for the 27 May or the Supreme Court’s decision, Hugo Chávez on 11 May awarded RCTV’s canal 2 frequency by decree to a new public service channel, Televisora Venezolana Social (TEVES).

2.01.07 - Government looking at three options for privately-owned broadcaster

The Venezuelan government is considering three options for the future of the privately-owned broadcaster Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), communication and information minister William Lara said on 29 December, a day after President Hugo Chávez announced that RCTV’s licence was to be rescinded.

One option, Lara said, would be to entrust the running of RCTV to community media or small production companies. Another possibility would be to create a mixed broadcast frequency for a company that was half public, half privately-owned. The third option, he said, would be for the state to take control of RCTV and for it to become an entertainment channel also available on cable. If the third option was chosen, the state-owned Canal 8 would be turned into a 24-hour news and talk-show channel.

Vice-President José Vicente Rangel, who is a former journalist, said the government had no intention of expropriating RCTV. At the same time, foreign minister Nicolás Maduro defended President Chavez’s 28 December announcement, saying it was necessary in order to “democratize the media.”

Reporters Without Borders takes note of this evolution in the Venezuelan government’s position on RCTV and says no decision should be taken without the agreement of RCTV’s owners.

Founded in 1953, RCTV is Venezuela’s oldest commercial broadcaster. Along with other news media, it supported the April 2002 coup attempt against President Chávez.

31.12.06 - President Chávez says commercial TV station’s licence will not be renewed

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the Venezuelan government’s decision, announced by President Hugo Chávez, to withdraw the licence of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Venezuela’s oldest commercial TV station. The organisation reiterated its appeal to the government to revise its stance on the broadcast media and to create an independent body to assign and renew licences.

“There will be no licence renewal for this putschist TV station called Radio Caracas Televisión,” Chávez announced on 28 December. “Here, we will not tolerate any news media that is in the service of those who make coups against the people, against the nation, against national independence and against the dignity of the republic. Venezuela must be respected.”

RCTV maintains that it signed a licence contract under the 2000 telecommunication law, a year after it took effect. RCTV president Marcel Granier said he would file a legal appeal in order to hold on to the licence, which expires in 2021, he said. This is disputed by the government, which claims that the assignment of a frequency to RCTV expires on 27 May 2007.

When communication and information minister William Lara recently denied that the government planned to hold a referendum on RCTV’s future, he nonetheless indicated that the renewal of its licence was not assured.

Granier said: “What is clear is the government’s desire to harass the station to make it change its independent line, which historically has been its distinguishing feature.” He added that other privately-owned media could suffer the same fate as RCTV.

19.12.06 - Government urged to drop idea of referendum on privately-owned network’s future

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about the threat hanging over the privately-owned broadcasting group Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) that its licence will not be renewed. Communication and information minister William Lara announced after the presidential election on 3 December that the network’s future will be put to a referendum.

“If RCTV loses its licence because it is part of the opposition, it would be a clear violation of editorial pluralism,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are aware of RCTV’s stance during the April 2002 coup attempt, but why threaten to rescind its licence more than four and a half years later? At the same time, does the development of community media require depriving commercial broadcast media of their frequencies? We call on the Venezuelan government to review its position.”

When Lara announced on 11 December that the renewal of RCTV’s licence would be put to a referendum, he was partially reflecting a suggestion made during the election campaign by Chávez that a referendum should be held on the concessions held by all four of the leading privately-owned national networks - Globovisión, Venevisión, RCTV and Televen - which all back the opposition and did not conceal their support for the April 2002 coup attempt against Chávez. Created in 1953, RCTV is Venezuela’s old commercial TV station.

Lara unveiled his initiative after a meeting with community media at which, he said, they had requested a referendum on RCTV. Two weeks before, the governor of the northern state of Miranda, Diosdado Cabello, said 2,000 independent media were interested in sharing the frequency assigned to RCTV. Carlos Escarrá, the head of the ruling coalition’s parliamentary bloc and the person in charge of proposing constitutional reforms on private property, suggested during the election that RCTV’s frequency should be reassigned to cooperative organisations.

Under Venezuelan law as it stands, a broadcast media’s infrastructure, equipment and buildings are private property but broadcast frequencies belong to the state, which assigns them to individual media.

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in the annual report
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