Chavez Changes Channels

When Hugo Chávez decided not to renew the license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) both defenders and opponents took to the streets in an outburst of political passion (“Chávez changes channels” May 29, 2007). He then announced that the public channel TVES has been dubbed a replacement. Some will see this as grounds for concern possibly giving Chávez yet another media outlet, with his opponents describing this as an infringement of press freedom. However, RCTV will not be completely off the air even though it may well deserve to be.

While the nation’s private station is the oldest in the country and will certainly lose some of its viewers as a result of Chávez’s step, it is inaccurate to say this action will lose them all. Absent from the article, “Chávez changes channels” is the fact that RCTV will continue to be aired over basic cable, which will service approximately half of its current viewers. Additionally, the article’s title implies that Chávez directly gave RCTV the boot. Rather, it was a government commission akin to the FCC that chose not to renew the station’s expired license, as should have been expected, given the grossly unprofessional role played by the RCTV in the attempted coup in 2002.

“Has Mr. Chávez made a significant miscalculation?” asks the article. Mass anti-Chávez marches may very well indicate that the answer is yes. However, loyal Chávistas were equally celebratory on the streets as they danced amid fireworks. Whatever the answer, it is clearly evident that there is a thick and certainly dangerous line dividing public opinion in Venezuela. Ultimately, it is justifiable for RCTV to be legitimately removed from the television spectrum, especially since it poses a demonstrable threat to civil society, which, one could argue was its intention.