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The country’s broadcast media have been under great strain during years of conflict with Chavez since the short-lived coup against him in April 2002. The campaign for the 15 February 2009 referendum that approved unlimited presidential re-election increased the media polarisation. Two of the four TV stations that backed the 2002 coup, Televen and Venevisión, kept their broadcasting frequencies by watering down their opinions. Globovisión, which continues to criticise the government, has been targeted by six administrative procedures, some including fines, that may shut the station down before its licence expires in 2013. Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), the oldest and most popular station, had to give up its terrestrial frequency to the government cultural station Televisora venezolana social (Teves). It resumed broadcasting by cable, as did RCTV Internacional (RCTVI), but was administratively targeted again in 2010.
Article 10 of the November 2004 law on broadcasting responsibility (Ley Resorte) allows the government to oblige all terrestrial media outlets to broadcast Chavez’ “cadenas.” A list of 24 cable stations (out of 160) newly subject to this law was issued on 21 January 2010. They have to link up to the main government station, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), for the speeches or face a heavy fine or be forced off the air. RCTVI was suspended for the reason on 24 January. The station had to agree to register as a “national broadcasting producer” before being allowed to resume cable programmes, but it has not yet been authorised to.
The 11th anniversary of Chavez’ rule on 2 February 2010 saw him deliver his 2,000th “cadena,” which have totalled the equivalent of nearly two months of speaking continuously. This does not include his regular Sunday broadcast “Aló Presidente” on VTV, or a new programme started on 18 February, called “De repente… Con Chávez” (“Suddenly… with Chávez”) with no set schedule. Communications and information minister Blanca Eeckhout accused the daily paper Tal Cual on 29 January of using humour to “call for violence.” The target was presenter Laureano Márquez, whose jokes had angered Chavez before and led to the paper being fined a total $50,000. Similar accusations were made against Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, of RCTVI, who is being prosecuted for “inciting a coup d’état.”
The fight to punish killers of journalists meanwhile advanced with the arrest and jailing in late February 2010 of those who allegedly ordered the death of journalists Orel Sambrano and Mauro Marcano.
Updated March 2010
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