Dissent Without Borders

Hugo Chavez may have chased his critics off the air in Venezuela, but he has not chased them out of Venezuelan homes. Radio Caracas Television could soon start transmitting its programming — and its criticism of the Chavez government — from Mexico, confounding the dictator’s efforts to silence RCTV:

The head of an opposition-aligned Venezuelan television station that was forced off the air by that nation’s government said he has received offers to co-produce and transmit programming from Mexico.
Marcel Granier, whose Radio Caracas Television went off the air May 27 after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decided not to renew its broadcast license, vowed Tuesday to keep trying to reach Venezuelan audiences by any means possible.
He said he had “good friends” in Mexico’s two major TV networks.
“Our commitment … is to re-establish that contact [with Venezuelans], either from Venezuela or from abroad, by any means possible, by cable, by satellite, by Internet,” Granier told reporters.

The distance would be too great for television broadcasts, unless RCTV can get repeaters closer to Venezuela to carry their signal. Cable seems problematic, as Chavez can probably keep providers from carrying the new station. RCTV’s best opportunities will be satellite and Internet ventures.
This will force Chavez to impose ever-stricter state control over the media if he expects to block them. Those kinds of censorship will only inflame opposition even further, creating a vicious circle of despotism that will undo Chavez in the long run.

19 thoughts on “Dissent Without Borders”

  1. id like to agree on the undoing of Chavez, but Im skeptical. Remember, Chavez learned from the best propagandist ever: fidel castro. And, in following castro’s “communism for dummies” chavez will most probably seek to expell foreign media prior to implementing more control over domestic media and information. Thus, with the foreign media sources out, the rest of the world cant bear witness to the increasing censorship.

  2. Hopefully before the delivery of up to nine Kilo (5) and Amur (4) class deisel submarines to Venezuela by Russia.

  3. Isn’t kinda funny that Fidel Castro seems to be at that age where he is loosing health. I thought that Castro was gone with his surgery and everything but now it seems like he is going to be here for a little bit longer and now Venezuela is starting to do the same thing with the whole “for the people” thing.
    What is going on down south of us?

  4. Not to worry, Hugo’s good friend Kim il Sung will sell him those special tvs that only accept specific frequencies.
    Dictators have to stick together, after all.

  5. Ed:
    “Cable seems problematic, as Chavez can probably keep providers from carrying the new station.”
    Another ridiculous statement. The government has said from day one that RCTV is free to broadcast over cable, satellite, or the internet:
    “… the government points out that although RCTV is no longer able broadcast on a VHF frequency…it is free to broadcast on cable and satellite.”
    Financial Times (London, England)
    June 1, 2007 Friday
    London Edition 1
    SECTION: WORLD NEWS; Pg. 14
    HEADLINE: Pot and pan protest over Chavez’s TV clampdown
    BYLINE: By BENEDICT MANDER
    DATELINE: CARACAS
    From Alfredo Hardy, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK:
    “The non-renewal of the licence only affects RCTV broadcasting on public airwaves, but it does not affect the television station’s liberty to broadcast in Venezuela through cable or satellite. The reasons of the non-renewal are directly related to RCTV’s failure to abide by the requirements established by the Venezuelan law for public airwaves that licensees should not incite political violence and civil unrest. Such violations correspond to conspiracy to bring down the constitutional government of Venezuela on the occasion of the coup of April 2002 and the active promotion of the oil sabotage of December 2002, which caused the country more than Dollars 10bn in losses. It also relates to a long history of sanctions against RCTV imposed by previous governments for violations of the law. In that last sense reference should be made to sanctions against RCTV in 1976, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1989 and 1991.* The non-renewal of RCTV’s licence is not an expression of censorship of private media. It must be noted that 79 TV stations and 118 newspapers in Venezuela are privately owned. A majority of them are opposed to the government of President Hugo Chavez.”
    Financial Times (London, England)
    May 31, 2007 Thursday
    London Edition 1
    SECTION: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR; Pg. 16
    HEADLINE: Venezuelan television licence decision is not media censorship
    BYLINE: By ALFREDO TORO HARDY
    The reason RCTV may not switch to cable is their own decision, and has nothing to do with Chavez stopping them:
    “[Ines Bacalao (Vice President of Marketing and Pragramming for RCTV)] said switching to cable TV is an option, but not the preferred one because it would exclude 70 percent of RCTV’s audience. Cable reaches fewer than 30 percent of Venezuelan households.”
    Associated Press Financial Wire
    June 6, 2007 Wednesday 4:06 AM GMT
    SECTION: BUSINESS NEWS
    HEADLINE: Despite being off the air, Venezuelan TV channel keeps cameras rolling
    BYLINE: By FABIOLA SANCHEZ, Associated Press Writer
    DATELINE: CARACAS Venezuela

  6. “Those kinds of censorship will only inflame opposition even further, creating a vicious circle of despotism that will undo Chavez in the long run.”
    I hope you are right about that, but I am not so confident. Fidel has avoided being undone for a very long run. And I am sure he is willing to tell his good buddy Hugo exactly how to manage it. Fidel can send a whole army of little Che’s to help shoot pesky Venezuelan dissidents in the head.

  7. Chavez can barely keep things going now. What will he do when the price of oil drops?
    The streets will fill with demonstrators – not people starving for freedom, but just starving. He’ll be toast.
    In the running for Bush’s biggest foreign policy blunder is the message he sent to the Venezuelan generals who had deposed Chavez in 2002. He warned them not to put a bullet in his head. Very bad advice.

  8. Dave:
    And just how long until Chavez decides that RCTV distributed via cable is unacceptable? Afterall, HE didn’t “renew their licence” on grounds that HE believes RCTV took part against him during the failed coup. An action that took place over 5 years ago I might add.
    “…. should not incite political violence and civil unrest …..” Did RCTV have an avenue to counter El Presidente’s claims? No due process required; the Enabling Act is in effect and in that Chavez is Judge, Jury, and Jailer.
    Further, I imagine that the reason for this action is not to just limit the broadcast audience, but to limit the type of audience that receives RCTVs programming.

  9. k2aggie07:
    “So, dave…are you sticking up for Chavez’ nationalization of a dissenting TV station?”
    Yes.
    Can you answer some questions for me? If NBC was involved in a coup attempt against our government, what would you consider an appropriate response would be? If NBC promoted a nationwide strike that crippled our economy with the goal of overthrowing our government, what do you think an appropriate response would be?
    Did you know that the FCC has chosen not to renew licenses for over 90 stations in its history? Most were for obscenity violations. What do you think is a bigger offense for a media outlet to commit, showing a boob, or participating in a coup attempt? How do you feel about the FCC not renewing the licenses of over 90 stations in the US?
    Just wondering.
    Adjoran:
    “Chavez can barely keep things going now. What will he do when the price of oil drops?”
    GDP growth of greater than 9 percent for 7 straight quarters qualifies as something more than “barely keeping things going”:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=aMes.ytdjv.E
    Venezuela’s budget assumes an oil price of $26. There will be no problem at all unless the price goes below this. Do you expect it to go this low?
    Ross Hunter:
    “And just how long until Chavez decides that RCTV distributed via cable is unacceptable?”
    Translation: “He’s done nothing wrong, but what if he does something wrong in the future?” If Chavez prevents RCTV from broadcasting on cable, you will have a good point, and I will acknowledge it. Trouble is, it has not happened.
    “After all, HE didn’t “renew their licence” on grounds that HE believes RCTV took part against him during the failed coup. An action that took place over 5 years ago I might add.”
    The evidence of this is overwhelming. Do you really wish to debate it? When the coup plotters publicly thank both Venevision and RCTV for their help, I think that alone is a good clue…
    “Did RCTV have an avenue to counter El Presidente’s claims?”
    WOLA echoed this view, saying “…the government should have brought formal charges and been prepared to substantiate the allegations in a court of law”:
    http://www.wola.org/media/WOLA%20Statement%20on%20RCTV%20May%2030%202007.pdf
    (By the way, they also realize the obvious fact that RCTV was involved in the coup, saying “…in WOLA’s view, RCTV and other private media outlets blatantly violated this obligation during the short-lived coup d’ètat against democratically-elected President Hugo Chávez in April 2002.)
    So you think Venezuela should have taken RCTV to court instead? I admit that this is what any other country in the world would do. Any other nation would put the media owner in jail:
    “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.”:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-jones30may30,1,5553603.story?ctrack=2&cset=true
    So tell me, what would the reaction have been if Venezuela did this and jailed Granier? The headline in every paper in the US would be: “Chavez throws dissenters into jail”. Chavez knows that he cannot do what every other country has the right to do, because the reaction would have been 100 times worse than what he ended up doing. He took the most benign measure you could possibly thing of for such an offense, and simply did not renew their license. And still the demonization campaign is over-the-top. Not one of the people that organized the coup against him went to jail. And he’s a strongman dictator? He’s certainly not very good at it.

  10. Ross Hunter:
    What do you think about the 90 media stations that did not have their license renewed by the FCC? They did not get to defend themselves in court. Are we living in a dictatorship?

  11. Just wondering: Did RCTV attempt an actual coup to throw the government over (how? with news casters?), or did they support the opposition leader via “free speech”?
    If they call for a national strike, is that enough to warrent the off the air treatment?

  12. Dave, you claim that about 90 media stations were DENIED the right to appeal an order by the FCC. Please provide an example. I think that you are making things up, and I will tell you why.
    Any organization or person can appeal any order of the FCC. Please review Title 47 Capter I Part 1.13 of the Code of Federal Regulations as well as 28 USC 2112a which provides guidance as to which federal court will hear the appeal.
    Further, I am providing an example of a case in which a station appealed the FCC denial of renewal.
    Trinity Broadcasting of Florida, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commisson No. 99-1183
    The decision of the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit: The Commission’s denial of Trinity’s license renewal application is vacated.
    No, we are not living in a dictatorship.
    My time available doesn’t permit me to properly answer your previous post, however I will get to it.

  13. Ross Hunter:
    “Dave, you claim that about 90 media stations were DENIED the right to appeal an order by the FCC.”
    Sorry, Ross. I did not say that “90 media stations were denied the right to appeal an order by the FCC”. Here’s what I said to you:
    “What do you think about the 90 media stations that did not have their license renewed by the FCC?”
    I said 90 media stations did not have their license renewed by the FCC. That is true. I did not say they were denied the right to appeal the loss of their license. I don’t know if any did, or if there are any examples of successes in doing so. But all your law citings were very impressive nonetheless.
    “Please provide an example. I think that you are making things up…”
    Here’s a couple quotes to back up what I said:
    “Only about 100 stations have lost their licenses at renewal since the [FCC] was founded in 1934.” (I guess I underestimated).
    The New York Times
    February 25, 1989, Saturday, Late City Final Edition
    SECTION: Section 1; Page 37, Column 6; Financial Desk
    HEADLINE: Radio License Is Revoked
    “An FCC spokesman says the agency denies applications for license renewals only about two or three times a year.”
    Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
    April 28, 1982, Wednesday, Midwestern Edition
    SECTION: Pg. 6
    HEADLINE: A one-man radio station’s fight to stay on the air
    BYLINE: By Janet Domowitz
    Here are some specific examples:
    1. License renewal denied for running a bogus contest. Is that worse than participating in a coup attempt?:
    “The Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday to revoke the license of an upstate New York radio station, saying the owner had lied, had run a contest where the prize was awarded to the station and had racially discriminated against a job applicant.‘He has 90 days to go off the air or 30 days to appeal’ to the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, said Rosemary Kimball, an F.C.C. spokeswoman. Among the charges against Mr. Serafin was that he discriminated against a black job applicant in 1980, calling her employment agency and demanding, ‘Don’t you have any white girls to send me?’ This was the first time since 1981 that the F.C.C. had pulled a station’s license on character grounds, Ms. Kimball said.”
    (See NYT article above)
    2) Obscenity reason, Worse than participating in a coup?:
    “… last week, on another front – obscenity – the [FCC] moved against a Chicago television station in a way that pre-empted the jurisdiction of the courts, sparking a new row. As a result of an accusation of obscenity by a competitor for a broadcast licence, the commission decided not to renew the licence of Video 44 and granted it to the competitor: constitutionally, the courts are the sole arbiter of obscenity.”
    The Guardian (London)
    January 18, 1988
    HEADLINE: The Media: Liberty and licence – The FCC controversy
    BYLINE: By PHILIP ABRAMS and JEFFREY CUNARD
    3) For lying about how many hours an employee worked. Is lying worse than participating in a coup attempt?:
    “The Federal Communications Commission’s review board, in a rare action, has refused to renew the license of an Ohio radio station on charges the station’s owners lied to the commission. At issue in the case of WBBY-FM is whether the station owners were candid when they said Richard Nourse, a part owner, spent 40 hours a week as station manager. The review board did not believe that Mr. Nourse, who the F.C.C. staff said had no desk and no office at the station, was substantially involved in running the station.”
    The New York Times
    July 11, 1986, Friday, Late City Final Edition
    SECTION: Section C; Page 30, Column 5; Cultural Desk
    HEADLINE: F.C.C. Won’t Renew Ohio Station’s License
    4) “misconduct”:
    “A judicial panel of the Federal Communications Commission ruled last week that the government should not renew the broadcasting license of Washington radio station WOOK-FM. Citing past misconduct by WOOK’s owners, the FCC review board said District Broadcasting Co., a minority-owned firm, should take over WOOK-FM’s 100.3 frequency from the United Broadcasting Co. Inc., which has been operating that station since 1951. Affirming an earlier decision by an FCC law judge, the review panel concluded that District Broadcasting was a superior company because United’s record ‘is significantly marred by serious past misconduct.’ In previous FCC actions, United was penalized with monetary fines and ultimately with the loss of its AM radio license after the commission found the station had broadcast misleading advertising and lottery information.”
    The Washington Post
    August 29, 1983, Monday, Final Edition
    SECTION: Washington Business; Regional Report; Pg. 5
    HEADLINE: FCC Panel Rules License for WOOK-FM Should Not Be Renewed
    5) For bogus reasons (having no relation to criminal conduct) so the FCC could take a license away from a guy in his basement so they could give it to a corporation. What would you say if Chavez did not renew the RCTV license in the absence of criminal misconduct?:
    “The Federal Communications Commission has not renewed Mr. Geller’s license – the first time the FCC has denied a renewal in the absence of criminal conduct…Geller and his listeners say he has put in the sweat to maintain a radio station that fulfills their needs. Geller, whose downtown basement studio doubles as his home, has operated WVCA since 1964. Between signing on at 10 a.m. (11:00 on Sundays) and signing off near midnight, Geller plays from 37 tapes, each having 12 hours and 40 minutes of classical music….There are no news breaks, hardly any ads, few public service announcements, and, lately, pleas from Geller for help in appealing the FCC vote…Since January 1981 the FCC has not required stations to conduct surveys to determine community needs or set aside a minimum time for broadcasting non-entertainment programs such as public service announcements or public affairs programs. Still, sources on both sides of the dispute and at the FCC say Geller’s attention to these areas was judged insufficient…the commissioners, by a 4-to-2 vote, awarded the frequency to Grandbanke Corporation, a firm formed in anticipation of aquiring Geller’s license. Steve Harris of the FCC’s general counsel says one weakness in Geller’s renewal application was his sampling of community opinion.
    Geller says his rate of less than 1 percent of non-entertainment programming, criticized by the commissioners last month as inadequate, was sufficient for his license renewal in 1972. Before deregulation, the FCC recommended that FM stations set aside at least 6 percent of their broadcast time for non-entertainment programming.”
    Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
    April 28, 1982, Wednesday, Midwestern Edition
    SECTION: Pg. 6
    HEADLINE: A one-man radio station’s fight to stay on the air
    BYLINE: By Janet Domowitz
    6) fraud:
    “A Federal Communications Commission administrative law judge has refused to renew the license of a television and radio station in Lansing, Mich., because of ‘misrepresentation and fraud’ in advertising and programming practices.”
    The New York Times
    November 14, 1981, Saturday, Late City Final Edition
    SECTION: Section 1; Page 14, Column 5; Cultural Desk
    HEADLINE: F.C.C. JUDGE BARS TV LICENSE

  14. Dave, pardon me as it seems that I wasn’t exactly clear as to my asking to provide an example.
    you said:
    Ross Hunter:
What do you think about the 90 media stations that did not have their license renewed by the FCC? They did not get to defend themselves in court. Are we living in a dictatorship?
    Posted by: dave at June 20, 2007 3:50 PM

    emphasis mine.
    It is this part in bold that I am asking you to provide an example of. It seems that you are making the claim that a party “did not get to defend themselves in court.” i.e.. their right to appeal was refused, disallowed, forbid, negated, withheld. You further ask if we are living in a dictatorship because a party “did not get to”.
    While I am positive the FCC has in the past and will in the future fail to renew a license to a broadcast media outlet as it is within their preview, it is on your assertion a licensee did not get the right to appeal an FCC order which I am asking you to provide an example of. Nor am I asking for an example of a party failing to exercise their right to appeal an FCC order.
    None of your examples show that a licensee “… did not get to defend themselves in court.”

  15. Ross:
    I did not see what you were getting at, and I should not have included the sentence you highlight in bold. Yes, it is true that stations who lose their license in the US can appeal. The same is true in Venezuela:
    “The Supreme Court said Venezuela’s telecommunication commission would assume responsibility for RCTV’s equipment, including microwave dishes and antennas, while the court reviews RCTV’s appeal of Chavez’s decision not to renew its license. The court also ordered the military to temporarily guard RCTV’s broadcasting equipment.”
    The Associated Press
    May 27, 2007 Sunday 1:20 AM GMT
    SECTION: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
    HEADLINE: Thousands protest Chavez’s refusal to renew opposition Venezuelan TV station’s license
    BYLINE: By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER
    So both the US and Venezuela have laws against inciting violence and participating in the attempted overthrow of the government. Both countries have similar broadcasting laws which, if violated, can lead to the loss of license. Both countries also have an appeals process. The US has used its broadcasting laws to deny the renewal of licenses 100 times, for reasons such as falsifying a single employees hours to the bogus reasons in my number 5 above. Venezuela used their broadcasting laws to deny a license renewal to a station who participated in the attempted overthrow of the government. Those involved in the coup are not even in jail. Comparing these two cases, I fail to see why one represents the greatest democracy in the world, and the other represents a dictatorship. Please explain.

  16. I was very impressed by the rich students “heroic” stand against oppression in response to the RCTV closing. The government responded to the rich kids by inviting them to the National Assembly to voice their concerns. (Imagine our government inviting dissenters, say Cindy Sheehan, to Congress to voice their views. I don’t think so.) They also invited “Chavista” students to respond. The rich kids gave their speech, then promptly walked out of the Assembly. I guess they didn’t really want to debate. What a surprise. Then they showed their bravery in the face of oppression by going to an upscale shopping mall to protest:
    http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y218/oilwars/sambil4.jpg
    http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y218/oilwars/sambil1.jpg
    Hilarious. I guess they are the next big resistance movement. Watch out Hizbullah!

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