Whatever It Is I'm Against It is my very favorite blog, and I generally agree with opinions and comments contained in the posts (and they're also very funny). Recently, there have been a couple of snarky posts about the failure to renew a TV license to an opposition station in Venezuela. On the surface, I might agree with the sentiment, but there are other circumstances that make this incident a not entirely clear-cut case of creeping dictatorship.
Following is an excerpt from an email I received today from a Venezuelan information organization. As background, I have personally seen pieces of a broadcast (now online here and here, about the film here) the day after the coup of 2002, from the TV station in question where the commenters were laughing and bragging about their role in staging the coup against the democratically elected government of Hugo Chávez. They freely admitted to participating in arranging the violent clash between anti- and pro-government crowds.
The first point made in the email is, in my mind, splitting hairs, or just changing spin. and I really don't know about the last one. But the other points are, I believe, well made and should be reported.
[Ed: the points made hereafter are not mine, but those from the email I received.]
1. There is no "Suppression of Media in Venezuela," nor was there a "closure" of RCTV. Instead its license to broadcast on the public airwaves was not renewed.
2. The non-renewal of the license prevents RCTV from broadcasting on open access channels, but the station will still be allowed to broadcast in Venezuela through the internet as well as cable and satellite TV. Neither does it affect the possibility of RCTV producing material for domestic or international TV programming. Moreover, RCTV may continue to broadcast using their two radio stations.
3. The non-renewal is due to RCTV's failure to abide by legal norms established by the Venezuelan Constitution and the Law of Social Responsibility for Radio and Television. The law forbids public airwaves licensees from inciting political violence and civil unrest. RCTV's violations involve conspiracy to bring down the elected government of Venezuela during the violent coup of April 2002 as well as the active promotion of an economic sabotage later that year, which cost the country more than US$10 billion in losses. RCTV also has a long list of sanctions imposed by previous governments for reasons ranging from pornography, violations of laws prohibiting publicity of smoking and alcohol drinking to transmissions of false information.
4. The non-renewal of RCTV's broadcasting license is not an example of censorship, nor is it a strike against the private media in Venezuela. RCTV was part of a majority; 79 out of 81 TV stations and all 118 newspapers in the country are privately owned. Most are vehemently opposed to the democratically elected government of President Chavez. RCTV is unique only in its editorial excesses and its history of violating legal norms.
5. RCTV's large share of the open-access airwaves was assigned, upon expiration, to a public broadcaster that is dedicated to presenting programming that features independent operators and producers.