REGIONS:

SUPREME COURT KEEPS RCTV ALIVE FOR NOW

Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled that TV channel Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) will remain on cable and satellite for the moment, acting just hours before a government deadline that could have taken it off the air for the second time in two months, report Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The Supreme Court of Justice said in a statement on 1 August that it suspended the telecommunications commission's order for opposition-aligned RCTV and other cable and satellite channels to register as national producers, which would require them to interrupt programming to carry some of President Hugo Chavez's speeches.

RCTV, the country's oldest private channel, began broadcasting by cable and satellite about six weeks after President Hugo Chavez forced it off the air at the end of May by refusing to renew its terrestrial broadcasting licence. Chavez's decision prompted numerous IFEX members and the Venezuelan media workers' union, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa (SNTP), to comment that he was limiting freedom of expression. The President said he made the decision because the channel openly supported a 2002 coup attempt and "became a threat to the country."

RCTV was given five days - until midnight on 1 August - to agree to carry Chavez's speeches, or be taken off the air. According to RSF, RCTV maintains that the station has the same characteristics as other international cable channels, which do not need to adhere to the regulations that govern "national producers."

RSF and other freedom of expression groups asked why the requirement was only mentioned after RCTV cable and satellite went live, when never before had a cable station been required to register.

According to the Associated Press (AP), RCTV executive Marcel Granier suggested the court decision was a way out of a difficult situation for the government. "After they made the rules against Radio Caracas, they realised that they would have to bust 45 more companies," he told the private channel Globovision.

The court's constitutional branch said it decided to take up the case, brought on by Venezuela's Chamber of Subscription Television, in part due to a lack of regulations clearly defining rules and rights of "national audiovisual production services" and which channels fall under that classification.

The Supreme Court decision gives RCTV a temporary reprieve but leaves it open to future court rulings.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23124
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/2ewasg
- SNTP: http://www.sntp.org.ve/principal23.asp
- AP: http://tinyurl.com/yp292v
(7 August 2007)

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