On 27 May, RCTV, the popular independent TV channel in Venezualia, will be taken off the air. By order of President Hugo Chavez. http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,,2085952,00.html
The reason for closing down the channel? Well, its licence to broadcast ends then – though the channel dispute that and claim it still has 20 years to run. The true reason is because it is a voice of dissent that is heard by the vast majority of Venezualans every day.
When a military coup ousted Mr Chávez in 2002 RCTV and three other private networks backed it. When the streets filled with people demanding the president’s return the channels ran cartoons in a vain effort to ignore the popular will. Chavez denounced the channels as fascist, but allowed them to continue to run. And RCTV has continued to loudly criticise the President and his policies. And now it seems the channel has pushed Chavez too far. He has said that nothing will prevent the closure of the station.
The people of Venezuela are mostly against the closure – an opinion poll found 70% of people wanted RCTV to stay on the air, and only 16% supported closure. But these people are not opposing the end of the channel because of ideals of freedom of speech and anti-censorship – they want RCTV to keep going because it carries massively popular game shows and soap operas.
Despite the protests in the streets of Caracas, RCTV will come off the air on 27 May – the channel hopes to continue operating on cable, but the future is uncertain.
Chavez is making a mistake. Sure, RCTV paint him in the worst colours possible – but so what? There are enough TV channels, radio stations and newspapers loyal to him to counteract the criticism. But he is going to be directly responsible for many Venezuelians’ favourite TV shows disappearing. Don’t come between a Venezuelan and her soap!