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Cablegate: Rctv President Asks U.S. To Press U.S. Cables Operators To

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SUBJECT: RCTV President Asks U.S. to Press U.S. Cables Operators to
Restore Its Signal

REF: 10 CARACAS 75; 10 CARACAS 101

CLASSIFIED BY: Robin D. Meyer, Political Counselor, State, POL;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary. In a meeting with the Charge on January
26, RCTV President Marcel Granier asked the U.S. government to
press DirectTV, Net Uno, and Inter to restore RCTV programming in
Venezuela. Granier charged that these were "U.S. companies" and
that they had illegally bowed to Venezuelan government (GBRV)
pressure in dropping RCTV from their schedules on January 24 (ref
a). Granier said RCTV could not survive financially if it had to
abide by the regulations governing "national" audiovisual
producers. Since he saw the regulation as specifically targeted at
RCTV, he expressed doubt that any dialogue with Cabello would
change the GBRV's decision. Moreover, he "would cease being me" if
he sought a dialogue and compromise with the GBRV. According to
Granier, RCTV reaches 67 percent of the Venezuelan market,
including 40 percent of the poorest class. Three of the smaller
cable channels affected by the January 21 decision were
reclassified as "international" producers on January 26 and
returned to the air (ref b). Action request contained in para 10.
End Summary.

RCTV Charges that U.S. Cable Operators Acted Illegally

2. (C) On January 26, RCTV President Marcel Granier and RCTV
Legal Counsel Oswaldo Quintana Cardona met with Charge, PAO, and
Polcouns to discuss the closing of RCTV on January 24 (ref a).
Granier claimed that DirectTV, Net Uno, and Inter had no legal
basis for removing RCTV from their programming simply based on the
verbal demand of Diosdado Cabello, the Minister of Housing and
Public Works and the head of the government regulatory agency
Conatel, and pressure by President Chavez. Granier claimed these
cable operators were "U.S. companies" and that they had acted
illegally since there was no judicial order or administrative
sanction that required them to remove RCTV from their programming.
(Note: Post believes Granier meant that these companies were
U.S.-owned. End Note.) He characterized their actions as a form
of corruption and a violation of the rights of the cable
subscribers. He argued that they should have resisted GBRV
pressure on principle.

3. (C) Granier said he was turning to the U.S. government for
help since he claimed RCTV International has been a registered U.S.
company since 1982. He specifically asked the U.S. government to
press DirectTV, Net Uno, and Inter, which he also claimed were
"U.S. companies," to restore their RCTV programming. He urged the
Charge to make them understand that they were serving as
"accomplices in the violation of human rights." He discounted
their supposed fears of potential official retribution by claiming
the GBRV would not risk the outcry that would result from closing
down the country's major cable operators that reach millions of
homes.

RCTV's Bleak Future

4. (C) Granier did not dispute that RCTV had met the
definition of "national producer" at the time the regulation was
issued on December 22. However, he argued that regulation was
unconstitutionally being applied retroactively. Rather than assess
RCTV's pre-December 22 programming to determine whether it met the
70 percent threshold for classification as a "national" producer,
Conatel should have made its assessment based on the four-month
period after the regulation was adopted. Granier claimed that
RCTV's post-January 13 programming met the requirements for
classification as an "international" producer and therefore should
continue to be exempt from the law requiring "national" producers
to carry certain Presidential speeches ("cadenas") and government
announcements and to limit commercial advertisements. Granier
further charged that Conatel had provided no "due process" for RCTV
to appeal the decision before pressuring the cable operators to
remove RCTV from their programming.

5. (C) Granier said that Cabello's public insistence that
RCTV could register as a "national" producer and then have its
status reviewed after four months was insincere. According to
Granier, Cabello knew that RCTV could not survive financially for
that period if it had to air required government broadcasts and was
limited to only one commercial per program. In addition, Granier
doubted that Cabello would really reassess RCTV's status as a
"national" producer after that period since he believed the new
regulation had been designed specifically to close RCTV. More
importantly, Granier said that "I would cease being me" if he
agreed to any compromise with the GBRV. He said RCTV had not been
in direct contact with Cabello or Conatel since 2002, and even had
difficulty transmitting official documents to them.

6. (C) According to Granier, while RCTV is not appealing to
Conatel, it is filing legal appeals with the Venezuelan Supreme
Court. (Note: Per ref b, on January 27, three of the small cable
stations affected by Conatel's decision returned to the air after
being reclassified "international" producers. However, Granier's
assessment that RCTV was the target of the new regulation and
unlikely to win any appeal with Conatel is widely shared. End
Note.)

7. (C) Granier said he hoped RCTV could establish some kind
of "fund" to help the 1,500 RCTV workers who were affected by the
closing of the station.

Politics at Heart of Dispute

8. (C) Charge stressed to Granier the political nature of
the dispute between the government and RCTV, which was unlikely to
be resolved through the GBRV's regulatory process, and expressed
interest in RCTV's views regarding the role of the cable operators
in the shutdown of the station.

Comment and Action Request

9. (C) Post does not believe that the GBRV will back down
from its decision to classify RCTV as a "national" producer despite
domestic and international protests given its longstanding
hostility toward Granier and his reciprocal attitude toward the
government. Moreover, Conatel's decision to reclassify three of
the smaller stations and permit them back on the air gives the
government a faC'ade of procedural legitimacy for this new
regulation.

10. (C) Post requests Department's guidance regarding RCTV's
request that we approach DirectTV, Net Uno, and Inter to discuss
the possible restoration of their RCTV programming. Post would
also appreciate information as to whether RCTV International,
DirectTV, Net Uno, and Inter are "U.S.-owned" companies.
CAULFIELD

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