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Cable companies take six television stations off the air following communications regulator's orders

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 24 January 2010, cable television companies stopped broadcasting the RCTV Internacional, América TV, TV Chile, American Network, Ritmo Son and Momentum television stations after Diosdado Cabello, the public works and housing minister and director general of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), demanded that they do so, alleging that the television stations had failed to comply with the Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Law ("Ley Resorte").

Cabello presented his request to the cable television operators after RCTV Internacional failed to broadcast the most recent message by President Hugo Chávez to the Venezuelan public. The minister warned the companies that if they continued to carry the television stations in question they would face sanctions.

CONATEL published a list of 24 television stations classified as national audiovisual producers that would be obliged to broadcast official messages and comply with the "Ley Resorte".

RCTV Internacional spokespersons explained that, because of its programming structure, their station should be considered to be international in scope rather than national and, as such, does not have to comply with the "Ley Resorte".

RCTV Internacional, which is legally registered in the United States, started to broadcast via subscription operators in July 2009, after the Venezuelan government failed to renew the licence that allowed it to broadcast via an open signal.

The América TV, TV Chile, American Network, Ritmo Son and Momentum television stations are affiliated with international networks and did not appear on the list published by CONATEL.

Via a statement aired on the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), Minister Cabello said that the government has not closed down the television stations but rather that they have been taken off the air because of decisions made by the cable television companies.

IPYS condemns the actions against the television stations as an attack on freedom of expression and the right to information, especially as they were carried out without the authorities having implemented the proper procedures or providing adequate notice, which would have allowed the stations to mount a defence.

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