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Venezuela's Telecommunications Minister, Jesse Chacón, said today that the TV channel that will replace RCTV, whose broadcast license expires May 27, will be the country's first true Public TV channel. That is, while the signal will be broadcast by the state, independent TV producers will create the programming for the new channel.

Caracas, March 29, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Venezuela's Telecommunications Minister, Jesse Chacón, said today that the TV channel that will replace RCTV, whose broadcast license expires May 27, will be the country's first true Public TV channel, modeled after European TV.

Chacón explained that the new channel will separate the medium from the messages that are broadcast. That is, while the signal will be broadcast by the state, independent TV producers will create the programming for the new channel.

"The state, in the exercise of its faculties, has decided that the frequency of Radio Caracas Television [RCTV] will go over to form part of a new television model that we have decided to call ‘Public Service Television'," said Chacón during a press conference today.

"With this [new channel] we break the editorial line that exists in the TV business, where the owner of the medium is the owner of the message," explained Chacón. Each producer would have their own editorial line that they are free to follow.

Chacón invited all Venezuelans to actively participate in the discussion of exactly how this new channel should be organized, how citizens participate in it, and what its programming should be. "Hopefully the creation of this public service channel, starting on May 28, will mean the emergence of a television in Venezuela where Venezuelans recognize each other, where values are placed first, and where we truly feel that we can not only be consumers of the medium, but citizens who actively participate in the creation of the content."

Chacón also announced that next year the government will launch a public service radio channel, which would be organized along the same lines as the new TV channel. Contradicting opposition claims, Chacón emphasized that the Venezuelan state controls not even 10% of the broadcast wavelength spectrum.

As a whole, according to Chacón, Venezuela's media landscape has diversified and democratized a lot in the course of the Chavez presidency, so that TV channels have increased from 30 to 78 since 1999 and the number of FM radio broadcasters has increased from 368 to 617.

The expiration of the broadcast license of the oppositional TV channel RCTV has caused opposition supporters to argue that freedom of speech is being limited in Venezuela. Chavez government officials, such as Chacón, argue, though, that the non-renewal of the station's license is a prerogative of the government. According to Venezuelan law it is under no obligation to renew the license, whose 20-year term expires this May 27th. On earlier occasions Chacón said that RCTV is free to continue broadcasting via satellite and/or cable.

RCTV is Venezuela's oldest TV station, which began broadcasting in 1953. Chavez announced last year that he would not renew the station's license, due to its past abuse of its broadcasting license. The station was heavily involved in the April 2002 coup attempt when it and other private TV channels claimed Chavez had ordered his supporters to shoot at an opposition demonstration, that Chavez had resigned, and when it refused to broadcast massive protests and unrest in support of Chavez's return to office.

Numerous media owner associations, such as Reporters without Borders and the Inter-American Press Association, have strongly criticized the decision, saying it will lead to a restriction of freedom of speech in Venezuela. Government supporters, though, argue that closing RCTV will open the airwaves to more views than before.

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