The revolution that was televised

The western media have been quick to seize on the demonstrations in Venezuela protesting the decision not to renew the broadcast license of one of the country’s TV stations.

Of course, this has provided grist for those determined to portray Chavez as a dictator with fascistic aspirations.

What is ironic is the fact that RCTV is portraying this as an act of censorship and assault on freedom. It is ironic because the station played a significant role during the failed 2002 coup against Chavez. Unfortunately, for RCTV, their role is pretty hard to dispute.

RCTV and other commercial TV stations were key players in the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chávez’s democratically elected government. During the short-lived insurrection, coup leaders took to commercial TV airwaves to thank the networks. “I must thank Venevisión and RCTV,” one grateful leader remarked in an appearance captured in the Irish film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The film documents the networks’ participation in the short-lived coup, in which stations put themselves to service as bulletin boards for the coup—hosting coup leaders, silencing government voices and rallying the opposition to a march on the Presidential Palace that was part of the coup plotters strategy.

RCTV’s management is predictably playing the victim card.

RCTV’s General Manager Marcel Granier said on Sunday that Mr Chavez was acting illegally.

“We haven’t lost hope that before midnight the president will react sensibly… he still has the opportunity to correct this abusive, arbitrary and illegal behaviour,” he said.

After midnight, he said, “the fight continues, freedom is something you have to fight for permanently”.

And how legal is supporting a coup against the democratically elected leader?

How many governments would renew the broadcasting license of a station that was actively involved in an anti-government coup? Try to imagine what would become of any television station in the US or Great Britain. It’s unlikely they would have been allowed to continue to operate at all, much less, live out their contract.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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