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Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 11:49 UK

Venezuela imposes new media curbs

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez watches TV in Caracas on 5 July 2009
President Hugo Chavez has been waging what he calls a "media war"

New regulations in Venezuela will require cable and satellite TV channels to carry speeches by President Hugo Chavez on a regular basis.

The measures will apply to those stations that produce more than 70% of their content within Venezuela.

The BBC correspondent in Caracas says this will apply to dozens of international broadcasters, which will be considered national stations.

Government opponents said it was an attack on freedom of speech.

The BBC's Will Grant in Caracas says when Mr Chavez deems it necessary, all national broadcasters in Venezuela must carry the president's speeches.

'Democratising' the airwaves

The broadcasts, known as "cadenas", are part of Venezuelan life under Mr Chavez and can last up to five hours.

This law seeks to persecute and intimidate
Ismael Garcia
Opposition MP

For those who do not want to watch the socialist leader, cable television has been a refuge whenever a cadena interrupts their favourite soap opera or a baseball match, our correspondent says.

But not any more, he adds.

The Venezuelan government defended the new regulations.

The minister overseeing broadcast licensing, Diosdado Cabello, said it was all part of bringing greater democracy to Venezuela's media landscape.

He told the National Assembly that the new rules affecting cable TV would take effect on Friday.

But opposition MP Ismael Garcia said: "This law seeks to persecute, increase control and intimidate.

"Those radio stations that have so far not come under state control will now have to cease operations or practise self-censorship, like some have already done."

Some analysts believe the measures are aimed at a private broadcaster, RCTV.

It re-launched content on subscription television after being denied a licence to broadcast on a public channel in 2007.

The government refused to renew RCTV's licence as it accused the channel of having supported a failed coup against Mr Chavez five years earlier.



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