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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Marcel Granier

Interviewed February 11, 2010

R.C.T.V. has, for more than 50 years, been the leading television station in Venezuela. R.C.T.V. won that place among the Venezuelans by providing entertainment and information. Particularly in the field of information R.C.T.V. was a pioneer. We had the first television news program in Venezuela, as we had had before in radio.

So people would always refer to RCT to R.C.T.V. when they heard some news. And if they wanted to check if it was true or not, they would wait for the news program of R.C.T.V., which was the leading news program in Venezuela for many, many years.

After the advent to power from Lieutenant Colonel Chavez, things began to get very difficult for independent journalism. ´Cause the president was always threatening independent journalists, threatening media directors threatening media owners. So little by little, people started self-censoring themselves. I have never believed in self-censorship.

What happened to R.C.T.V. was that as the president got more open in in his Communist policies and in his involvement with countries like Cuba, Libya, Syria, Iraq Iran even visited Saddam Hussein once Belarus and Russia, and the media were critical of that, bec that had nothing to do with the with the beliefs of the of the population in Venezuela. He was more aggressive against the journalists who were bringing that I mean those policies to to attention.

So he started threatening them, or attacking them. Early in 2001, a group of journalists from from R.C.T.V. was attacked by a mob promoted by President Chavez. Then in 2002, they tried to burn down our main building, where close to 2,000 people were working at the time. That they did again in 2004.

Their threats to journalists kept growing and growing and become more menacing. Eventually, we had to bring a case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where we were able to prove that over 150 journalists working for R.C.T.V. had been attacked by mobs or police under the instructions of President Chavez.

Finally, in December, 2006, at the military gathering, he said that he would shut us down because we were golpistas (coup plotters). He was never able to prove that. So we haven´t had the right to defend ourselves from those accusations. Nevertheless, everybody in Venezuela knows that Lieutenant Colonel Chavez is a convicted golpista. I mean he was involved in a coup d’état in 1992.

He participated while in prison in another coup d’état in November, 1992. And he participated in another coup d’état in 2002 whereas we have always had a very clear record of defending democracy and freedom and human rights.

Finally, in May 2007, he shut us down. Two days before that, on May 25, all our installations, more than 70 stations all over the country, were invaded by military forces with no orders with no legal procedure, with no decision from a judge or a public officer. But they took by force; they took our stations on May 25. And then on May 27, our license was cancelled, and our all our signals were shut down.

Then I felt very bad. I´d been working more than 40 years at R.C.T.V. It´s been the work of my life. I had I mean some shareholders to respond to, more than 3,000 employees, several hundred clients and providers, suppliers. I felt very bad. I thought, “Well, what are we going to do next?”

In those months, when we were appealing the government decision, but we knew that the Supreme Court wouldn´t decide it because it´s totally dominated by President Chavez, we made some studies. And then we decided to try it on cable and satellite. Nobody had ever done it anywhere in the world something like that, to transform an open-air television, a terrestrial television station with all the resources it needs, into a cable and satellite operation. I mean that at the time, we were employing close to 3,000 people. And the largest cable operator was employing about 100 people, and were running like ten more than ten channels.

We were the number one by a fairly wide margin. Penetration of cable and satellite grew from 19 percent to over 65 percent. So we were able to recover most of our audience and our income. And then, all of a sudden, in January 2010, so ten months ago, the government decided that they didn´t want us on the air anymore. And they gave the order by television, without any provision from a judge or a public officer. They insinuated to the cable and satellite operators that if they didn´t take us off the air, they would sanction them. So the companies were frightened by the government threats, and took us off the air on January 23, 2010.