CARACAS – Privately owned Radio Caracas Television Internacional ceased its cable broadcasting at midnight after complaining that the Venezuelan government had ordered it to halt its operations.
Amid protests by workers and directors at the private network, the station stopped transmitting via cable, the medium to which it had been relegated since 2007 after being forced to cease its activities on the open airwaves because the Hugo Chavez administration refused to renew its license.
Shortly before going off the air, the network released a statement in which it complained that the government, via the National Telecommunications Commission, or Conatel, had contacted the subscription broadcasting services to ask that they exclude RCTV Internacional from their programming.
“That behavior by Conatel is absolutely illegal since, if the government feels that RCTV Internacional committed some infraction, what occurs is the opening of an administrative proceeding against the channel, providing the opportunity for it to exercise its right to defend itself, as the Constitution specifies and guarantees,” the media outlet said.
The operators of cable television stations should exclude from their programming channels considered to be “national” that do not comply with the law, which obligates them, among other things, to yield to the presidential networks, Conatel chief and Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello said.
Cabello, who did not mention RCTVI, told reporters that “nobody is being closed.”
RCTV Internacional is one of the 24 cable networks that the Chavez administration on Thursday classified as national, thus obligating them to adjust their programming to prevailing legal norms that apply to open broadcasting television networks.
The legalities do not affect international channels that are among the group of broadcasters whose programming cable operators offer to their subscribers.
Venezuelan law establishes that a channel will be considered “international” if 30 percent of its programming is of foreign origin and “national” if the percentage of its programming produced in Venezuela exceeds 70 percent.
Representative Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today joined the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights's (IACHR) Commissioner for Venezuelan Affairs, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, and Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero, in emphatically rejecting the closing of cable television channels in Venezuela and demanding that freedom of expression and due process be reestablished.
"The closing of RCTV and several other cable television channels is just another way that President Chavez is seeking to control the media in Venezuela. I stand with Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights's (IACHR) Commissioner for Venezuelan Affairs, and Catalina Botero, the OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, in demanding that freedom of expression in Venezuela be restored.”