Venezuela cable networks dropped

Six stations let go to comply with regulator orders

In what could be the final nail in the coffin for Venezuela’s oldest broadcaster, cable and satellite providers dropped Radio Caracas Television and five other cable nets at midnight on Saturday to comply with orders from the country’s telco regulator or risk sanctions.

RCTV, Ritmo Son, Momentum, America TV, American Network and TV Chile have been accused of violating new rules that oblige all producers of national content to register with the regulator and air all government broadcasts, including President Hugo Chavez’s marathon speeches.

RCTV, founded in 1953, was forced to move into cable in 2007 when the government revoked its broadcast license for supporting what it alleged was dissent against Chavez.

RCTV can still air on the Internet but advertising revenue would not sustain its 1,500 employees.

People took to the streets, banging pots and pans in protest on Saturday. More demonstrations, led by the opposition, unions and students, are planned for the coming days.

“We are still the biggest producers in Venezuela,” said director general Marcel Granier on Saturday. “When we moved to cable, penetration tripled and DirecTV saw its subscriptions rise from 240,000 to about a million.”

New regulation was announced in December and reinforced on Thursday when the government released a list of cable nets that had to comply with the ruling.

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