Saturday, June 02, 2007

Can't Stop The Signal

What happens in the light, stays in the light. What happens in the dark is brought into the light.—Mark Overman

A private TV station in Venezuela fearlessly criticizes their bombastic leader, Hugo Chavez. In turn, Chavez yanks their broadcasting licence. So how does the station retaliate? They start broadcasting on YouTube.

There was a massive public outcry when the station went off the air (see picture at left), so the station's bold decision to use YouTube should be a reminder to all despotic leaders that, in the information age, it's impossible to completely control communication within a country's borders. Armchair historians might cite Voice of America as the precursor of non-native broadcasts to oppressed peoples, but this is a unique instance because a private broadcaster is using a public service to reach its viewership. It's only a matter of time before China's government is either usurped by its virtually vocal resistance or it's forced to watch its country get left behind in the internet revolution.

Of course, YouTube is just a tool, and all tools can be abused. Consider the 27 year old spammer recently arrested by federal authorities. This one guy sent millions of spam emails... catching him has been so significant that "authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail." One guy? Really? Jeez, talk about market penetration.

Here's the full article about the TV station:

Silenced Venezuelan TV station moves to YouTube
POSTED: 10:41 p.m. EDT, May 31, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Radio Caracas Television, the station silenced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has found a way to continue its daily broadcasts -- on YouTube, the popular video Web site.

Although the station is officially off the air, CNN's Harris Whitbeck said its news department continues to operate on reduced staffing, and the three daily hour-long installments of the newscast "El Observador" are uploaded onto YouTube by RCTV's Web department.

In addition, RCTV's Colombia-based affiliate, Caracol, has agreed to transmit the evening installment of "El Observador" over its international signal. The program, which will run at midnight, could reach about 800,000 people in Venezuela.

Although this is drastically reduced from RCTV's previous audience, its continued presence is a sign of hope for the staff.

"We're just doing our job as journalists," said an employee of RCTV. "As long as somebody is seeing us, we consider what we are doing to be valid."

Thousands of people, most of them from area universities, took to the streets of Caracas in protest this week after Chavez refused to renew RCTV's broadcasting license, which expired last Sunday. (I-Report: Watch marchers fill street to protest station's closing )

Chavez accused RCTV of violating broadcast laws and supporting a botched coup against him in 2002. He replaced RCTV on Monday with a state-run broadcast station .

RCTV, which had been on air for 53 years, aired soap operas, programs and news broadcasts with a decidedly anti-governmental perspective. It was one of only a handful of private broadcast stations in Venezuela that openly criticized the government. Another, Globovision, has received similar threats from Chavez regarding its right to broadcast.

One of YouTube's many features is the option for viewers to comment on the posted videos, and recently old and new segments of RCTV programming on the site have been accompanied by fiery debate about the limits of free expression.

"Cerrar un medio de comunicacion es una monstruosidad sin excusa alguna," stated one commenter: "To close a means of communication is an inexcusable monstrosity."

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