Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chávez steps up control of radio and television

Venezuela is taking dozens of radio stations off the air and putting stricter rules on cable and satellite television, a minister said yesterday, as part of President Hugo Chávez’s battle with private media firms.
Disodado Cabello, the public works minister who also oversees Venezuela’s broadcasting watchdog, said 154 FM radio stations will be taken off the air and shifted into public hands in what he called “democratizing the airwaves.” He recently said 86 AM radio stations will also be hit as the government steps up efforts to turn Venezuela into a socialist society.
“The use of the radio-electric spectrum is one of the few areas where the revolution has not been felt,” Mr Cabello said in a presentation to legislators about the need for reform in the sector. President Chávez and his supporters describe their drive to broadcast a pro-government message as a “media war” with private news companies. Venezuela’s media is highly polarized with biased coverage the norm on both government and private networks.
The president has vastly expanded the number of publicly owned television and radio stations since he took office in 1999. Some are directly owned or financed by the government, while others are operated by cooperatives and community groups. In 2007 President Chávez did not renew the concession for a widely watched critical private TV station RCTV.
Mr Cabello also announced plans to apply Venezuelan broadcasting regulations to cable and satellite television stations that produced more than a third of their content in the oil-exporting nation. The new rules for subscription television seemed to be aimed specifically at RCTV, which now broadcasts only on cable. RCTV was Venezuela’s most popular television station, watched by millions because of its soap operas. The station was highly critical of President Chávez and played an active role in a failed coup against him in 2002.
(Source: Reuters/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)

Related story:
86 AM radio stations and 154 FM radio stations in Venezuela will be subject to administrative proceedings by the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) because the owners of the media failed to meet a request made by the officials of the regulatory agency to update their data, said Conatel’s director, Diosdado Cabello.
Cabello, who is also the Minister of Public Works and Housing, presented the results of the special proceeding at a press conference. He announced that Conatel will immediately open an administrative proceeding to all radio station concessionaires that did not provide the bureaucratic requirements to the agency. The goal of the proceeding is that the government recovers the broadcasting licences.
The official said that the withdrawal of the licence implies the seizure of equipment and a five-year ban to participate in any telecommunication activity. He said that 240 radio stations are operating illegally.
(Source: El Universal)