By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS -- Problems continue to pile up at Globovisión, Venezuela's main private sector 24 hours news channel, although it would seem the station to be not entirely without friends.
The national telecommunications commission, Conatel, announced Thursday that it was carrying out a "penal administrative procedure" against Globovisión. Late that night, a small group of people gathered outside Globovisión's headquarters in the prosperous suburb of La Florida in Caracas to voice their support for the station.
Hoisting placards proclaiming freedom of expression, the protesters chanted "Globovisión, Globovisión" and other slogans in support of the channel, which has run into trouble with Conatel before.
Its offence this time was to broadcast information about the earthquake which rocked Caracas and other parts of the country early last Monday morning. Globovisión is deemed guilty of transmitting information without being authorized to do so.
It would appear that officials are peeved that Globovisión covered the earthquake an hour before the government was ready to release a statement. If so, their position would appear to ignore the fact that getting out information is the sort of thing that's expected of the media in such circumstances.
Conatel made its move against Globovisión after a debate in the National Assembly, where the chamber is all but entirely dominated by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its minor allies. From then on, that Conatel would take some form of action against Globovisión was a foregone conclusion.
Chávez unsurprisingly has no affection for Globovisión and what he sees as a viewpoint reflective of its middle class and upper income audience. It is also the the biggest national media outlet in the country that isn't linked with or sympathetic to the government.
Conatel officials and state security forces raided Globovisión's headquarters earlier this decade, removing transmission equipment. The official rationale, issued later rather than at the time, for this was that Globovisión hadn't paid for the wavelength on which it was broadcasting. Globovisión claimed that its equipment was never returned.
Two years ago, another private station, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), was effectively shut down by Chávez through the simple expedient of not renewing RCTV's broadcasting licence. RCTV was forced to move to cable, where it continues to transmit its stream of soap operas and other popular programs to a much smaller audience.
Speculation frequently hovers over Globovisión's future, amid warnings that the government is poised to revoke its licence or shut it down in some other way. However, while Chávez's disdain for the station is well known, no such drastic measure has been taken against the channel yet. VenEconomy: Venezuela's Government Actions Make Your Blood Boil