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Venezuela’s Last Independent Broadcaster Sold

Anti-Chavez Globovision faced financial, political woes

The last remaining government opposition-leaning TV channel in Venezuela, Globovision, is being sold to a staunch ally of the country’s late president Hugo Chavez and his regime.

Ricardo Antela, Globovision legal counsel, said that there was a formal offer on the table and that “political, legal and economic pressures have forced Globovision to accept it.”

Globovision prexy Guillermo Zuloaga, whose family owns 80% of the 24-hour newscaster, identified the buyer as Juan Domingo Cordero, prexy of insurance company La Vitalicia, who is said to have close ties with government officials. Observers think Globovision’s editorial stance will likely change once the sale is finalized even though the buyers have claimed to be politically neutral.

Zuloaga told employees today that Globovision was no longer a viable business and had no access to loans at preferential rates to buy equipment. Staffers were said to be distraught, with many fearing that they would lose their jobs.

Zuloaga and his son Guillermo Jr. have been living in the U.S. to avoid arrest in their home country.

Sale will be finalized after the April 14 elections, which were called after Chavez’s death on March 5, and other legal conditions are met, including the approval of state telco agency, Conatel. Chavez’s handpicked successor, current vice president  Nicolas Maduro, is tipped to win the elections.

Last year, Globovision was fined more than $2 million for allegedly inciting political unrest for its coverage of prison riots in June 2011. It was the seventh and heftiest fine it has paid over the years. When it was first announced, Globovision VP Maria Fernanda Flores warned that paying the penalty, which amounted to an estimated 7.5% of the newscaster’s 2010 gross income, would bring it to bankruptcy.

Compounding its financial woes, Globovision was excluded from the government’s plans to switch from analog to digital broadcasting.

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