RCTV license non-renewal – the will of the people

AVSN Statement
To indicate your support for this statement, please email your name and city to info@venezuelasolidarity.org
Dear friends,

You will no doubt be seeing media headlines “Venezuelan troops take TV equipment” and worse, circulating the world, many referring to “international criticism of [President Hugo Chavez’s] decision not to renew RCTV’s license and to replace Venezuela's most-watched channel with a state-backed network that will promote the values of his (sic) self-styled socialist revolution".

The “international criticism” referred to is being led by prominently identified right-wing identities and their media outlets, and their allies in the US Bush administration. This is a highly politicised campaign utilizing the international mass media.

It is based on the baldly-stated lie that the Chavez government is “closing" RCTV and “silencing” a dissenting voice. In fact, RCTV’s 20-year concession has expired and the government, acting according to the Constitution, is exercising its right not to renew the concession due to repeated violations of Venezuela’s broadcasting laws. It is use that concession to enable those denied access to the media a chance to broadcast. RCTV can continue to produce their materials and sell them commercially, and broadcast via satellite.

Venezuelan government research shows more than 600 other cases globally of a government deciding not to renew a TV broadcasting concession, yet it only the Venezuelan decision in relation to RCTV that is being condemned as an “attack on free speech”. In April, in Peru, six media outlets had their licences revoked, yet none of those currently campaigning against Venezuela’s decision uttered a word of protest.

Opposition leaders in Venezuela openly state that their aim in protesting the closure of RCTV is to return the country to the old "Fourth Republic" days and rid themselves of Hugo Chavez.

Any strategy based on “removing Chavez” is doomed to fail. Over the past nine years Venezuela has undergone a mass, peaceful and democratic revolution. Chavez represents the hopes and aspirations of millions of Venezuelans. Those millions have been demanding for many years that the media be democratised as well. For Venezuelans today, the media does not just represent the opposition – it is the opposition. Venezuela’s community and alternative media is flourishing; it has expanded enormously and is an essential part of people’s power.

Ironically, it was the direct participation of the media in 2002 in implementing the briefly lived coup against the Chavez government that has led to the Venezuelan people being so conscious about the role of the mass media. It is RCTV’s own actions that have resulted in the non-renewal of its broadcasting concession, and it has only itself to blame.

And let’s be clear: there is no forced troop seizure of the RCTV. Notice was given months ago, and court actions and appeals were lodged and have been lost by RCTV.

The concession is not being denied because the station is “critical” of the government. The overwhelming majority of the private media are opposed to the government. What is happening is a result of a process of accountability. RCTV’s broadcast license was up for renewal, and the government considered that the Venezuelan public – whom the government is elected to represent – will be best served by allowing access to that broadcasting frequency to the many public, community and alternative programs already being produced and transmitted on community frequencies. This followed wide consultations – a hallmark of the Venezuelan government.

It is a tribute to the Bolivarian revolution that the new TVes will be transmitting the wealth of material that people are already producing. Viva the Bolivarian Revolution and the cultural developments that it brings!

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network congratulates the Bolivarian government and people’s organisations for this exciting step forward, and for following legal and democratic processes to do so.

When AVSN began to compose this statement, it was simply a congratulatory note: many compañeros have worked very hard to ensure a peaceful transition to the new public and socially responsible state-owned TV station. While we still send great congratulations to those millions of Venezuelans who firmly reject the media monopoly that continues to agitate for the pro-capitalist and imperialist systems they are a part of, this is also a message of solidarity and condemnation of violence.

AVSN notes the reaction of the business managers of RCTV and their associates in Venezuela and the USA in calling for violent action to overthrow the government with the supposed aim of “restoring democracy”. We particularly deplore the use of armed violence by the RCTV protest organisers who, on Sunday 27 May, shot 11 members of the Venezuelan security forces outside the RCTV–Tves building, and we applaud the restraint shown by the Venezuelan security forces in continuing to negotiate and work to defuse the confrontations.

The vast majority of Venezuelans are very proud of their peaceful, democratic revolution. They abhor incidents of violence and understand them as a tactic of the opposition and their allies in imperialist circles. Violence is a violation of the revolutionary consciousness; today’s opposition has used violence and repression for decades to control the population. Posada Carilles and other notable torturers and murders acted within the old state structures to carry out their crimes against the left and the general population.

Violence is how the RCTV operators chose to act, yet under the people’s power being constructed in Venezuela, people are not just “allowed” to organise a (peaceful) protest, they are positively encouraged to express themselves, have a voice and a public presence. Millions of Venezuelans have demanded that the RCTV licence not be renewed, and that the broadcast rights go to a socially responsible and democratic station.

It is the clear will of the majority of Venezuelans, based on the long list of violations of the broadcasting code by RCTV and the ongoing lies and misinformation transmitted by the broadcaster.

For more information/background, visit www.venezuelasolidarity.org.