I løpet av de siste dagene har det vært en del i norsk media om tilbaketrekkingen av lisensen til TV-kanalen RCTV. Mye av det som skrives er upresist, og jevnt over fremstilles regjeringens handling som en trussel for ytringsfriheten. Under er fakta rundt saken, sakset fra Venezuela Information Centre.
Se også Venezuelaanalysis for kommentarer og analyser.
The truth about RCTV - a VIC briefing
In recent weeks a number of press articles have claimed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is closing down the TV station RCTV and that this is a sign of increasing censorship and restrictions to the freedom of expression in Venezuela.
These are false allegations, circulated by opponents of the Chávez government as part of a politically motivated campaign to undermine support for the government. The truth about RCTV is very different and below the Venezuela Information Centre outlines the facts.
1) Is the Venezuelan government shutting down the RCTV Station?
Contrary to some reports, the RCTV station is not being closed down. Rather, the Venezuelan government has chosen not to renew RCTV’s licence to broadcast via Venezuela’s Channel Two when this expires on 27 May. RCTV will continue to be able to operate freely in Venezuela on the public airwaves on cable and on satellite, as will the many TV and radio stations that RCTV owner Empresas 1BC runs across Venezuela[i]. 2) Why has the government decided not to renew RCTV’s licence?
As with other democracies, Venezuelan law allows the government the right to grant broadcast licences, renew them or let them expire. The government has made the decision not to renew because of RCTV’s violation of numerous laws – most notably the active support it gave to a military coup in April 2002 to overthrow the democratically-elected Chávez government.
In addition to its violation of laws that prohibit the incitement of political violence, RCTV has not co-operated with tax laws and has failed to pay fines issued by the Telecommunications Commission.
RCTV’s involvement in the 2002 coup
In April 2002, a violent military coup temporarily overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Hugo Chávez. At least 13 people were killed and in the 48 hours that the coup plotters held power there was violent repression against those protesting for Chávez’s return and many were shot at by the police. The coup plotters overturned key components of Venezuela’s democratic constitution - closing down the elected National Assembly, the Supreme Court and other state institutions. Sections of Venezuela’s private media – including RCTV – played an active role in supporting this coup which became known as the world’s first ‘media coup’. One of the coup leaders Vice-Admiral Victor Ramirez Perez, underlined the key role of the media in organising the coup, stating, “We had a deadly weapon – the media.” The media’s role is highlighted in the documentaries, The Revolution Will Not be Televised and the new John Pilger film The War on Democracy.[ii]
RCTV’s specific involvement included running adverts encouraging the public to take to the streets and to overthrow the democratically elected president.[iii] As www.venezuelanalysis.com highlighted, RCTV was the first to broadcast the false claim that Chávez’s supporters were shooting at opposition demonstrators, which then served as a justification for high level military generals to declare their disobedience to the government[iv] and RCTV also showed exclusive interviews with coup plotters.
RCTV’s involvement was publicly highlighted on a television chat show the day after the coup, where journalists and military plotters boasted of their collaboration in creating a violent confrontation that could be used to justify the overthrow of the government. In this exchange, one conspirator says: "I must thank Venevision and RCTV" for the role it played[v]. RCTV's participation was so extensive that its production manager, Andrés Izarra, who opposed the coup, immediately resigned so as not to become an accomplice.
In addition to direct misrepresentation of events, RCTV also censored news reporting to try to stop the public from finding out what was really happening. RCTV's owner Marcel Granier ordered on the day of the coup and the following day that there was to be "No information on Chávez, his followers, his ministers, and all others" on the station. [vi] A managing producer of one of the station's news programmes affirmed this when testifying to the Venezuelan National Assembly. Instead, in the days of the coup, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the return of President Chavez, RCTV showed only cartoons[vii]. This is in clear violation of regulations contained in Article 58 of the Venezuelan Constitution that guarantee Venezuelan citizens a right to "true and accurate information".
In no country would it be the case that media outlets which have not only called for, but also played a key role in organising the violent overthrow of a democratic government, would have their licence to broadcast renewed.
Following their support for the April 2002 military coup, sections of the media have continued to go beyond just expressing criticism of the democratic Venezuelan government by calling for its overthrow. For example, just a few months after the April 2002 military coup, a sabotage of the oil industry – Venezuela’s main source of revenue – was organised by industry employers with the intention of creating severe economic hardship that would lead to the overthrow of the Chavez government. It lasted for two months and saw Venezuela’s economy shrink in the first and second quarters of 2003 by 15 percent and 25 percent respectively. Again, the four main TV stations, including RCTV, ran a propaganda war against Chavez including broadcasting 17,600 ‘advertisements’ in support of the sabotage. Many of these were paid for by the TV stations themselves.[viii]
3) Is the non-renewal of the licence legal and have other governments made similar decisions? Most countries regard the TV and radio airwaves as a public space that has to be regulated through laws and codes of conduct. Governments or delegated bodies are empowered to take action against any broadcaster that fails in its legally prescribed responsibilities.
Across the world, decisions not to renew licences to those who have violated these requirements are not unusual. A report by J. David Carracedo published in the magazine Diagonal on 21 countries, including the US and in Europe, found that there have been at least 236 closures, revocations, and non-renewals of radio and TV licences. [ix] In addition research conducted by the Venezuelan Ministry of Telecommunications shows that over 600 TV broadcasting licences have not been renewed all around the world.
In Venezuela, the regulations are based on Article 156 of the Venezuelan Constitution, the Organic Law of Telecommunications (2000) and the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television (2004) Similarly, there are requirements on broadcasters in the US and Britain.
In the US, laws have long established standards to which all broadcasters must adhere. These are maintained by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which controls licensing and programming. The FCC has regularly denied licence renewals based on these standards and as an article in the Houston Chronicle noted, “it’s doubtful [RCTV’s] actions would last more than a few minutes with the FCC.”[x]
In Britain, TV and radio must adhere to the Broadcasting Code which embodies objectives that Parliament set down in the Communications Act of 2003. This states that “Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services”[xi] and that “Broadcasters must use their best endeavors so as not to broadcast material that could endanger lives.”[xii] RCTV’s role in the coup would have clearly violated these laws.
4) Will alternative views still be able to be expressed in Venezuela?Much of the reporting of the non-renewal of the RCTV licence has implied that this station is a lone critical voice of the Chavez government. This could not be further from the truth.
It is estimated that 95 percent of the Venezuelan media is in opposition to President Chávez, and on a daily basis produces vitriolic ‘news pieces’ as well as editorials against the government.[xiii]. The private Venezuelan media includes five major television channels –Venevisión, RCTV, Globovisión, Televen and CMT – which control at least 90 percent of the TV market, with smaller private stations controlling another five percent.[xiv] In addition all of the country’s 118 newspaper companies, both regional and national, are held in private hands, as are 99 percent of radio stations.[xv]
Venezuela’s media enjoys the freedom to report and express opinions without government interference. Despite the clear violations of laws and active support for the overthrowing of a democratic government, not a single TV or radio station has been closed by the government since President Chávez was elected in 1998.
However, two television channels have been shut down temporarily for political reasons, not by the government, but by opponents of President Chavez. One was the public station, Channel 8, which was shut down by the junta responsible for the coup as part of concerted efforts to prevent the truth from getting out. The second is the case of alternative station Catia TV, which was closed in July 2003 by the former Metropolitan Area Mayor, Alfredo Peña, an anti-Chávez member of the opposition and supporter of the April 2002 coup[xvi].
In fact, since the election of the President Chávez, the diversity of media has expanded. Venezuela’s Telecommunications Minister, Jesse Chacón, recently pointed out that during the Chávez presidency the number of TV channels have increased from 30 to 78 and the number of FM radio broadcasters from 368 to 617 since 1999.
5) What will replace RCTV on Channel Two?
In addition to RCTV’s failure to meet basic public interest standards, the Venezuelan government has also said that it has chosen to grant the licence to another broadcaster in order to democratise both access to and the content of the airwaves.
A new television station TEVES (Venezuelan Social Television) will begin airing on Channel Two once RCTV’s licence expires. Government Minister Jesse Chacon has said that TEVES will be similar in concept to that of European public service broadcasting, with the aim of creating space for diverse programming. He explained that the new channel will “break the editorial line that exists in the TV business, where the owner of the medium is the owner of the message” with independent TV producers creating the programmes for the new channel.[xvii] The Venezuelan Director of Public Policy of the Ministry of Communication and Information, Luisana Colomine, added that “Any person can participate in its production and no one will be excluded for belonging to one political party or another… That's part of the idea of public service”. [xviii]
[i] Hugo Chávez and RCTV: Censorship or a legitimate decision? 7 February 2007 at http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1954[ii] The Revolution Will Not Be Televised can be viewed at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5832390545689805144 or a copy can be requested by e-mailing
. For more information on The War on Democracy see www.johnpilger.com[iii] Press Freedoms in Venezuela: The Case of RCTV. Venezuela Information Office press release at www.rethinkvenezuela.com/downloads/RCTV.htm[iv] The footage which claimed to show Chavez supporters firing on innocent demonstrators, was actually scenes of pro-government demonstrators defending themselves while under fire from trained snipers who were killing people as shown in the film Llaguno Bridge: Keys to a Massacre at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9wU0OIIEmY[v] In the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. [vi] Press Freedoms in Venezuela: The Case of RCTV Venezuela Information Office press release at www.rethinkvenezuela.com/downloads/RCTV.htm.[vii] Press Freedoms in Venezuela: The Case of RCTV Venezuela Information Office press release at www.rethinkvenezuela.com/downloads/RCTV.htm[vii] Venezuelan Government Will Not Renew “Coup-Plotting” TV Station’s License 3 January 2007 at www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=2182[viii] Eva Gollinger quoted in www.coha.org/NEW_PRESS_RELEASES/New_Press_Releases_2005/05.47_Telesur_ the_one.htm[ix] See the full report http://www.rebelion.org/docs/47853.pdf[x] Jones, Bart “Chavez as Castro? It’s not that simple in Venezuela,” Houston Chronicle, February 7, 2007. [xi] Section 3.1 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code, available at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/bcode/ofcom-broadcasting-code.pdf[xii] Section 3.6 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code, available at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/bcode/ofcom-broadcasting-code.pdf[xiii] Press release from Council on Hemispheric Affairs 19 January 2007 http://www.coha.org/2007/01/19/hugo-chavez-the-media-and-everybody-else[xiv] Press release from Council on Hemispheric Affairs 19 January 2007 http://www.coha.org/2007/01/19/hugo-chavez-the-media-and-everybody-else[xv] Press Freedoms in Venezuela: The Case of RCTV. Venezuela Information Office press release at www.rethinkvenezuela.com/downloads/RCTV.htm[xvi] http://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/n8281.html[xvii] See Telecom Minister: New Channel Will Be First True Public TV in Venezuela, March 29 2007, www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=2254[xviii] Interview with Panorama, available at http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=2296