By Kiraz Janicke
Venezuelanalysis.com, August 3rd 2009
The minister said many of the stations were operating illegally and had failed to register or pay fees to CONATEL. Decisions are still pending on a further 206 stations.
Nelson Belfort, the president of the Chamber of Radio Broadcasters and the Caracas-based Circuito Nacional Belfort, which owns five of the closed radio stations, described the move as a government "attack" that aims to limit freedom of expression. He said the CNB would appeal the decision.
However, Cabello explained that the measure is fully within the framework of the law and that the licenses are being revoked for violating regulations.
The minister denied the government is trying to limit freedom of expression, saying those affected can continue transmitting their programs through the internet as the measure only applies to the use of the state-owned airwaves.
Cabello said that powerful families in Venezuela, who had "swindled" the people, had acquired many of the radio stations illegally and constituted "media latifundios" (a reference to large, privately-owned estates), whereby 27 families controlled more than 32% of the radio and television waves. Many of those affected own ten to twenty or stations, the minister added.
New reforms to the Telecommunications Law aim to break up the "media latifundios" by limiting ownership of radio or television stations to three per private owner, according to Cabello. Under the reforms broadcasting concessions are designated as un-inheritable property, and are therefore non-transferable to family or colleagues in the event of the death of a concession holder.
The minister warned that those who continue to operate illegally without permits will be subject to sanctions under the Telecommunications Law.
In relation to a call by the private television station Globovision to protest in the streets against the measure, Cabello responded,
Around 200 people gathered to protest the decision outside the offices of CNB on Saturday and on Monday a small group of journalists rallied in front of CONATEL.
However, many Venezuelans share little sympathy for the private media due to its role in the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted President Hugo Chavez from power. Private television and radio stations collaborated directly with the coup regime and imposed a media blackout, broadcasting cartoons and soap operas.
On July 23 the National Association of Free and Alternative Community Media (AMCLA), held a rally in Caracas calling for radio and television airwaves to be handed over to the people. Then on Sunday several hundred people rallied in front of CONATEL in support of the government measure.
Mireya Bolet, a councilor and resident of Chacao who attended the rally, said
President Chavez said on Saturday that the 34 stations were operating outside the law and have been recovered and would be handed over to community media.
The measure should be supported, Chavez argued, because the "radio stations now belong to the people and not the bourgeoisie." He stressed that the people must be the owners of the strategic means of production, and said that the Bolivarian government is also working on the recovery of other spaces.