Two Sides of Venezuela RCTV ShutdownSee:
Unlike most of the mainstream media and RCTV would have you believe, Hugo Chavez is not "closing down" RCTV, but only refusing to renew the broadcaster's public license. That is, RCTV won't be able to broadcast on public airwaves anymore. Putting the obvious negative effects such measure will have on the station's ratings aside, RCTV will still be able to broadcast on Venezuela by cable and satellite. This refusal, in turn, was made on the basis that RCTV violated several laws in the last few years, most notably on its participation on the 2002 coup. Furthermore, RCTV didn't cooperate with tax laws and didn't pay a number of fines issued by the Venezuelan government in recent years.
The day after the coup, a TV show aired on RCTV showed journalists and military coup plotters talking about how they tried to create an atmosphere of violence that would justify the overthrow of Chavez's government, and thanking RCTV for the support. During the coup, RCTV ran adverts calling the people to overthrow the government, and was the first station to broadcast the false claim that Chavez's supporters were shooting at peaceful demonstrators, which ended up triggering the military intervention. It turned out that the RCTV initiative backfired, and it would be enough for Chavez not to renew the license.
As Reporters without Borders doesn’t mention, perhaps understandably so, given its financing by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy — which also finances rightist opposition political parties in Venezuela — RCTV was an active participant in the violent coup d’etat that deposed President Chávez for almost 48 hours in 2002.
Cartoon Coup D’Etat
On the day of the coup, RCTV abandoned all pretense to report news impartially, calling opposition supporters to illegally demonstrate at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas while showing the constant on screen message ‘Ni un paso atras’: ‘Not one step back.’
It deliberately showed film from one angle to falsely claim that Chávez supporters were firing on opposition demonstrators, when another camera angle would have shown that Chávez supporters were defending themselves from sniper attacks — no opposition demonstrators were in sight. The constant repeated broadcasting of this film was then used as justification for some military officers to declare their ‘disobedience’ to the president, and these declarations were faithfully broadcast to attempt to legitimize a military takeover.
The American editorial writers who fail to mention all this, also fail to comment on the Venezuelan media’s support for the subsequent fascist junta that took control in Caracas and proceeded to dismiss the entire Supreme Court and the Congress, suspend the constitution, arrest the democratically elected president and then sent armed police onto the streets to suppress any resistance.A junta member, Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez, thanked journalists on live TV the day after the coup, saying that the organizers ‘had a weapon — the media — let me congratulate you,’ and the businessman the junta chose to be ‘president’, Pedro Carmona, summoned media executives to Miraflores to ensure that opposition to the coup was not reported.
RCTV’s boss, Granier, denied he ever met Carmona during the coup, despite film showing his presence at Miraflores, and while Granier still refers to the junta leader as ‘President Carmona’, RCTV’s subsequent actions demonstrated that no instructions were necessary to keep it on message.
As Venezuelans took to the streets to demand the return of President Chávez, fighting the police and demonstrating at Miraflores in their thousands against the coup, RCTV, contrary to the constant coverage it awarded the opposition demonstration that led to the coup, intentionally blacked out this breaking news, and as RCTV production manager at the time, Andrés Izarra, later related, Granier himself ordered journalists ‘not to broadcast information on Chávez, his supporters or anyone connected to him.’
As for Granier and RCTV, some in the opposition believe it is no loss to have the station lose its license. ‘RCTV wasn’t even good at propaganda,’ wrote one anti-Chávez columnist citing Chávez’s return after the coup and massive election win in 2006, ‘the point of giving up journalism is to increase the political effectiveness of what is broadcast, and on that score RCTV has certifiably failed.’Hugo Chavez versus RCTVVenezuela's oldest private TV network played a major role in a failed 2002 coup.
Would a network that aided and abetted a coup against the government be allowed to operate in the United States? The U.S. government probably would have shut down RCTV within five minutes after a failed coup attempt — and thrown its owners in jail. Chavez's government allowed it to continue operating for five years, and then declined to renew its 20-year license to use the public airwaves. It can still broadcast on cable or via satellite dish.
Granier and others should not be seen as free-speech martyrs. Radio, TV and newspapers remain uncensored, unfettered and unthreatened by the government. Most Venezuelan media are still controlled by the old oligarchy and are staunchly anti-Chavez.
If Granier had not decided to try to oust the country's president, Venezuelans might still be able to look forward to more broadcasts of "Radio Rochela."
The U.S. media, in particular, having for years predicted dictatorship under ChÃ¡vez, (whose popularity stubbornly remains of the order of 60-65%, much higher than GW Bush's) has of course leapt to make the accusation of censorship and 'the end of media freedom' in Venezuela.
Let's look a bit more closely at this accusation.
In other democratic countries, broadcast companies sometimes lose their licences. Renewal of licences isn't automatic or guaranteed. In 1992, for example, partly as a result of a government-led assessment of the quality of its service, Thames Television, a popular, commercial British TV station, lost its franchise after 24 years of broadcasting.
In the USA, 2 weeks before the 2004 presidential election, there was a decision by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (who control many of the local tvstations in the country) to have its stations run a documentary criticising John Kerry. The Democratic National Committee filed a case with the FCC arguing that such "partisan propaganda" was unacceptable. (See 'Stolen Honor' Newsweek election edition 2004 ) . Kerry's spokesman Chad Clanton said: "You don't expect your local TV station to be pushing a political agenda two weeks before an election. It's un-American." Political and economic pressure applied by the democrats eventually forced the Sinclair Group to cancel the anti-Kerry broadcast. There was even some talk of the Sinclair Group losing its franchise when the Democrats came to power. One wonders what the scenario might have been had the Group actively participated in an anti government oil strike or in legal and political campaigns to remove the government of the day, would their broadcast licence have been renewed? Is overt and active support for the overthrow of an elected government considered a 'democratic' right or 'freedom of speech' in the USA?