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US$2 million dollar fine could bankrupt Globovisión

(IPYS-Venezuela/IFEX) - On 18 October 2011, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) announced that it will impose a fine on Globovisión amounting to 7.5% of the television station's gross income. The station is being fined over its coverage of violent riots that took place at the El Rodeo prison, on the outskirts of Caracas, in July. The application of such an excessive fine would bankrupt the television station.

The fine, which has been calculated at 9.3 million bolívares fuertes (approx. US$2.1 million), is based on stipulations in the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Law (Ley Resorte) which state that media outlets that "incite public disorder, crime, hatred and intolerance or anxiety in the general populace" shall be sanctioned with fines of up to "10% of their gross income, corresponding to their most recent tax year", or with a 72 hour suspension of their operations.

CONATEL president Pedro Maldonado made the announcement regarding the fine and said the decision could only be appealed via the judiciary. According to Maldonado, Globovisión exercised inappropriate "editorial conduct" and discredited "official" information. He added that the station obtained statements from relatives of 18 of the prisoners and repeated them 269 times in four days, incorporating "bursts of machinegun fire."

The fine was determined following proceedings against the station that began on 30 June. CONATEL charges that Globovisión failed to relate regular statements made by prison authorities. The television station has said it had no access to the authorities at the prison, as they only offered statements to the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión.

Globovisión legal adviser Ricardo Antela believes it is clear that CONATEL intends to fine the station for its reporting style and editorial line. He added that the fine would "bankrupt" Globovisión.

There are an additional six CONATEL administrative proceedings currently pending against Globovisión. If all of those proceedings were to result in sanctions, the television station's license could be cancelled for good.

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