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- Renewal of broadcasting license to Venezuelan RCTV subject to public debate
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in his annual greeting speech to the National Armed Force (FAN) said the broadcasting license to Caracas-based privately owned TV network Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) -which expires in the first quarter of 2007- will not be renewed.
"They better go packing and see what they are going to do as of March because the broadcasting license for this coup-plotting TV channel that used to be called Radio Caracas Televisión will not be renewed!," the Venezuelan ruler exclaimed.
"This resolution has been drafted already. Start turning your equipment off! No media at the service of coup-plotting, against the people, against the nation, against the national independence and against the dignity of the Republic will be tolerated in this country! Venezuela has to be respected!" Chávez said.
"I am making this announcement before the date comes (for expiration of RCTV broadcasting license) and they continue to spread their story that the license is in force for 20 years. Wrong! It is effective for 20 years if you are good! This is over!" the Venezuelan told the cheering military officers and troops.
A few days earlier, government spokespeople said Venezuelan State broadcasting licenses to privately owned media would be subject to revision. The Minister of Communication and Information, William Lara, said the fate of RCTV would be decided at a popular survey.
A decision not to renew a broadcasting license to privately owned television network RCTV is fully legal under the Organic Law on Telecommunications, said the Minister of Communication and Information William Lara.
"Regulations are clear. Broadcasting licenses granted by the Venezuelan State are in force for 20 years, and such a term expires on May 27, 2007 for RCTV," Lara told state-run TV channel VTV, as reported by the official news agency ABN.
According to the official, any construction by RCTV CEO Marcel Granier of President Hugo Chávez' move not to renew RCTV broadcasting license is "a manipulation intended to distort the institutional and legal nature of this decision."
Lara clarified that Granier's statements -claiming that RCTV broadcasting license was renewed in 2001- are a lie, "because it was precisely that year when the Venezuelan State conducted a census to know the real number of telecommunication operators in the country, nothing else."
"That survey was not binding. Therefore, Marcel Granier is making a misconstruction when he thinks that the license would be renewed automatically."
Further, Lara explained that beyond the legal and constitutional grounds of Chávez' move, such a decision comes in response to other issues such a steady, uninterrupted destabilization campaign RCTV has been waging as editorial stance, ABN reported.
"We have to remind the decisive role RCTV played during the coup d'etat in 2002 and the manipulation it deployed during that time," Lara added.
According to Lara, RCTV workers should not be concerned about losing their jobs, as the radioelectric signal currently used by RCTV will continue on the air, but under a new operator.
He hinted the operation could be handed over to a joint venture comprising the Venezuelan State and private firms, or cooperatives or a State-owned company.
Government refuses claims of expropriation
Venezuelan Minister of Information and Communication William Lara told reporters in a news conference that President Hugo Chávez' announcement that the broadcasting license to TV channel RCTV would not be renewed should not take anyone by surprise.
However, he denied plans to "revoke or expropriate" the privately owned channel, and clarified that what Chávez meant on December 28th is that the Venezuelan State is to "rescue" the signal as of March 27th, 2007.
"This is no revocation or expropriation, but termination of the license. The premises of RCTV are owned by Marcel Granier and the other shareholders of that company, and nobody is to act against such facilities."
Lara denied claims that the Venezuelan State intends to expropriate Venezuelan media. He argued that representatives of 1BC holding -which owns RCTV- have "reacted in a distempered way" and the "right facts" of Chávez' move have been manipulated.
"Journalism in this country is plagued with lies. They are lying when they talk about revocation and expropriation," Lara stressed.
He claimed that attempts are under way to make people believe that the Government is to expropriate a private television channel and that freedom of speech in Venezuela is endangered.
"The country with the highest standards of freedom of speech in our continent -with all due respect for the rest of the Latin American countries- is Venezuela. Our degree of freedom of speech is so high that lies are spread throughout the country and no penalty is imposed whatsoever."
According to Lara, there are grounds behind the move to terminate RCTV broadcasting license. Under article 29 of the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law, he said, similar moves can be made against "the media promoting, hailing or encouraging war and public disorder."
"In years 2002, 2003 and some months in 2004, RCTV encouraged people to block highways, roads and seize public buildings."
RCTV CEO: Chávez' Government wants to control the information
Marcel Granier, CEO of Caracas-based 53-year television network Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Friday accused President Hugo Chávez of making attempts at crushing freedom of the press in Venezuela through his "authoritarian" and "populist" government.
Granier stressed that Chávez intends to turn Venezuelan reporters into "instruments submissive to the guidelines of this populist government," DPA reported.
"Obviously, just like in all populist and authoritarian regimes, there is a wish to control information and follow the model of (Fidel) Castro, (Juan Domingo) Perón, (Benito) Mussolini, (Adolf) Hitler. This government has been very industrious in this connection, showing a remarkable stress on propaganda," Granier told Colombia Caracol Radio.
According to RCTV CEO, Chávez' move not to renew RCTV broadcasting license -which expires in the first quarter of 2007- evidences that the Venezuelan ruler wants to "intimidate" the opposition TV network, which has often criticized his government.
"We all know what this is all about: they are trying to dismantle freedom of speech and force the media to obey Government guidelines, while leading reporters to spread pro-government propaganda rather than exerting their profession independently."
On December 28th, Chávez vowed not to renew RCTV broadcasting license, claiming this TV network plotted to remove him from office.
VP Rangel: Refusal to renew RCTV license is not political retaliation
Venezuelan Executive Vice-President José Vicente Rangel commented on the reactions following President Hugo Chávez' announcement that the broadcasting license to TV network RCTV would not be renewed, and claimed the decision is not a political retaliation but a State right.
In a press release, Rangel stressed that the Venezuelan Government does not intend to revoke the license, but not to renew it, as it expires next May.
"We are not talking about nullifying a license -which the Venezuelan State is also entitled to do, by the way, on fair grounds-, but about a move taken within the framework of discretion by announcing that a license will not be renewed. This not an expropriation either, like some people have suggested."
RWB urges Venezuela to reconsider move on RCTV
Reporters Without Borders rejected President Hugo Chávez' decision on December 28th not to renew the broadcasting license to TV network Radio Caracas Television (RCTV).
The organization branded the move as "a serious attack against editorial pluralism," claiming it shows a clear intention to interfere with media.
In a communiqué, Reporters Without Borders urged the Venezuelan Government to reconsider its stance and guarantee an independent system to grant and renew broadcasting licenses to audiovisual media.
"The broadcasting license for this coup-plotting TV channel that used to be called Radio Caracas Televisión will not be renewed! No media at the service of coup-plotting, against the people, against the nation, against the national independence and against the dignity of the Republic will be tolerated in this country! Venezuela has to be respected!" said Chávez.
IAPA: Move against RCTV is a punishment
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez' move not to renew 53-year TV network RCTV's broadcasting license -expiring next May- is a punishment for taking a stance opposed to the Venezuelan Government, said Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Commission on Freedom of the Press and Information, Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).
"This is a new outrage against freedom of the press and speech. This is simply retaliation against a critic voice annoying him (Chávez)," Marroquín said in a press release.
He would not show surprise at the Venezuelan Government move. "This did not take us by surprise because we expected it. However, we are concerned because the President (Chávez) is actually punishing a media because of its editorial stance and is using a broadcasting license to penalize this network."
Marroquín voiced concern that "the Venezuelan State may later on grant this license as a reward to another media or person subject to the government's will."
He claimed the move "is running counter to democratic principles, is directly hitting freedom of speech and undermines the right the Venezuelan people have to be informed."
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