Venezuela channel: excluded from digital TV system

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 21, 2013 03:15 hrs

A Venezuelan television channel that takes a critical stance toward President Hugo Chavez accused the government on Wednesday of excluding it from a new digital television system, and it warned that the action could force it off the open airwaves.

Globovision is the sole remaining television channel in Venezuela that takes a stridently anti-government line. The channel said in a statement that it was "arbitrarily excluded" from the digital TV system despite having taken steps to be included during meetings that officials held to launch the project.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the launch of the digital TV system on Wednesday and said that state channels will be participating as well as private channels including Venevision, Meridiano and Televen. He and other officials did not address the complaint raised by Globovision.

Maduro said the free digital system is part of the government's efforts to move toward "communicational and cultural socialism." He also said, without elaborating, that the shift will help get a grip on content that "has promoted pornography, drugs, prostitution and the promotion of the use of weapons."

Globovision has long clashed with Chavez's government, and in recent years the National Telecommunications Council has opened eight investigations against the channel.

Last month, the agency ordered the channel to stop showing clips that questioned the legality of postponing Chavez's inauguration while he was undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba.

In June, Globovision paid a fine of more than $2 million imposed by regulators in another investigation.

Human rights groups have called on the government to halt such measures against the news channel.

Globovision said that when the government decides to eliminate the older analog system that it uses, that will force the channel to "interrupt its transmission" on the open airwaves and limit its programming to cable television.

Officials haven't given a target date for doing away with the analog television system.

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