Friday, December 29, 2006

Censorship in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is showing that like most virtually absolute rulers, his tendency is to get more absolute over time. It seems the more power these clowns have the more thin-skinned and absolutist they become. Chavez just won reelection by a considerable margin and his power is virtually unchallenged. But there's this pesky TV station that's aligned with the opposition, so he wants them silenced.

To be sure, Radio Caracas Television, which has been around since 1953, did support a 2003 "general strike" against Chavez that led to a failed coup attempt. So Chavez, in a speech to his troops, said its license was due for renewal in March and renewal would not be forthcoming. "There will be no new operating license for this coupist TV channel called RCTV," he crowed. "So go turn off the equipment."

This shows what can happen when the government licenses the media. What the government gives it can take away for the most blatantly political or arbitrary reason.

I doubt it would happen here, but if we were smart we would move quickly eliminate the government's power to license the broadcast media. The founders would have included them as part of "the press," about which "Congress shall make no law" restricting their freedom. A medium that depends on a license from government to operate is not genuinely independent.


Blog de Armando said...

This was indeed un unfortunate announcement by President Chavez. Particularly during a year-end salutation to the military. Venezuela has a social responsibility law for radio and television: if any broadcaster breaks this law it should be punished -that is statemanship. If you by any means prevent anyone from speaking out because he might break the law: that is Censorship, which in Venezuela is uncosntitutional.

Anonymous said...

Much as I admire your purist libertarian-anarchism in opposition to licensing by the state, there *is* a valid rationale for state licensing of broadcasting.

Unlike with "the Press" where, theoretically (haha), anyone can start up a printing press and publish a newspaper, broadcasting involves a limited resource that belongs to society as a whole: the airwaves. Thus the state's responsibility to oversee the distribution and use of this resource on our behalf.

I suppose that the advent of cable and satellite TV may sidestep the limited airwaves issue, but it introduces other issues, such as the relative monopolization of those delivery methods by very few media/telcom giants.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Alan Bock said...

The airwaves are a natural resource. Saying they belong to "the public" and should therefore be controlled by the government is blatant expropriation to create a rationale for government control and skirting the First Amendment.

As for cable, satellite, etc., those respources tend to be more tightly controlled by a few large corporate entities when government regulation is heavy rather than when it is light or nonexistent. Remember in the beginning when city councils, etc. granted regional monopolies to cable companies rather than allowing competition? That laid the groundwork for the mega-companies we see today.

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