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Authorities cancel TV station's licencing contract

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 8 August 2011, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) notified Felipe Marcelino Chumpi, prefect of the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago, in southern Ecuador, of a decision to cancel prematurely the licencing contract of the Telesangay TV station, which is owned by the provincial government. The prefect suspects the decision may be politically motivated because he opposes the central government.

Via resolution RTV-589-15-CONATEL-2011, CONATEL terminated the Telesangay TV station's frequency. The station had received an earlier warning, issued on 13 October 2010, which alleged that its facilities and operating procedures did not fulfill all the requirements of the Broadcasting and Television Law.

An operating licence was granted to Telesangay on 13 May 2009 and, according to the law, the station had one year within which to begin broadcasting. According to Carlos López, the director of communications for the Morona Santiago Provincial Government and Telesangay's manager, they fully complied with this regulation.

López questioned CONATEL's expressed reasons for cancelling the station's licencing contract and noted that two different and opposing technical criteria regarding the operation of the station had been applied.

In the first case, technical experts hired to carry out an inspection stated that the station was following proper procedures, whereas in the second case, CONATEL experts found the opposite and, as a result, cancelled the station's licencing contract.

Prefect Chumpi, a member of the opposition Pachakutik party, said in an interview with EcuadoRadio on 23 August that he is the "victim of political persecution" and that the arguments presented by CONATEL to cancel the TV station's licence are "technical-juridical legalese." He also questioned CONATEL for, in his view, rushing to issue a resolution without taking into account the result of the most recent joint inspection.

According to the official, political events such as the 30 September 2010 police uprising and the 7 May 2011 public consultation could have influenced the decision to terminate the station's licencing contract because the channel "will be used for propaganda purposes."

At the moment, Telesangay's defense team is waiting for an answer after filing an appeal for review with CONATEL, requesting that the inspections which found that the station was following proper procedures be taken into account.

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