Monday, April 23, 2007

The not so serious side of the RCTV case 

The days are counting down to when the opposition TV network Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) loses its broadcast license and goes off the air. At the end of May its 20 year concession ends and the government has already announced it won't be renewed.

Some in the opposition, and RCTV itself, have tried to make hay of this - that it somehow constitutes a crackdown on freedom of speech or punishment for an anti-government editorial line. And some in the international arena with little knowledge of what has taken place in Venezuela over the past 5 or 6 years have bought into this.

The reality though is that no informed and serious person can make such arguements. They simply have no merrit.

Yet they still may be believed by some in the international community because they have little or no experience with the Venezuelan media. When told that RCTV has been highly partial, or extremely anti-Chavez, or has been outright subversive they think in terms of what they are familiar with.

"Oh, so it is like Fox news" many probably think. They simply can't concieve of what RCTV is like and how it has conducted itself over the past few years.

Of course, RCTV is nothing like Fox. To say RCTV is like Fox is to insult the Fox network. Fox may be right-wing media but RCTV doesn't limit itself to being part of the media. It is part of the opposition intent on getting Chavez out of office by any means. And that is what strikes to the heart of the matter. RCTV is not losing its license for a certain editorial line, or supporting the Venezuelan opposition, or even for reporting on the coup and oil strike.

It is losing license because it was an active participant in the April 2002 against Chavez. And no, its not just that it was in favor of the coup, cheering from the sideline, or even giving it favourable coverage. It actively PARTICIPATED in the coup. Its studios and its broadcasts were used by rebellious military officers to actually direct the coup - giving orders to some, calling on others to surrender.

Watch the first 10 minutes of this video and you will see a TV station that is not reporting news but taking the lead in an insurrection:

Say what you will about Bill O'Reilly but he has never allowed his talk show to be used to direct a coup. There is simply no civilized democratic country that would renew the broadcast license of a TV station which engages in this kind of activity.

Needless to say this is illegal and is a valid reason to rescind a broadcast license. In fact, Article 74 of the Organic Law of Telecommunications give the government the right to rescind broadcast licenses "for reasons of national security". This is just but one of many laws broken by RCTV many of which are detailed in this excellent document.

Of course, that was only one instance of many. For example, during the oil strike it broadcast the oppositions news conferences endlessly and broadcast no advertisements other than pro-strike ads which it broadcast at no cost. A few of them can be seen in this documentary.

"Que digan la verdad" parte I
Uploaded by lubrio

(the rest of this excellent documentary with more examples of RCTV broadcasts can be seen here).

Yet even defeat in the oil strike didn't stop it. For example in the 2004 referendum against Chavez it refused to broadcast pro-Chavez advertisements even though the law required it to. Would Fox be allowed not to broadcast advertisements by Democratic candidates? Would it still be on the air if it did? Almost certainly not.

It is all of this that makes the discussion about the closing of RCTV not a serious one. In fact, even the vast majority of the opposition realizes that to defend RCTV is to defend the indefensible. That probably explains why virtually no-one showed up for this weekends rally "in defense of RCTV". Even the opposition propogandists realize a lost cause when they see one. That is why only the most hard core elements bothered to show up like these:

The opposition claims it is not the old pre-Chavez political elite yet look who is always in the lead at their rallies

Here's an idea. If Colombia wants RCTV maybe they can have them.

Its clearly a lost cause when the loonies of the "Oil People" and the PDVSA management union that never was are the people that show up. Given that RCTV is soon going to share their same sad fate maybe we should say misery likes company

Clearly, there just isn't much to discuss here in terms of whether RCTV should be shut. The Venezuelan government knows it, the opposition knows it, and those who have any experience with RCTV know it.

Now here is the REAL discussion - what should happen to the channel being freed up by the RCTV closure? What should the new station be like and who should control it? Those are the real questions. Sounds like a good subject for a future post.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?