Here's a reminder to all Venezuelans to make sure your DVD players are in top working condition and your Netflix subscription paid in full, and in absence of alternate entertainment -- because, let's face it, the economy there sucks -- consider watching paint dry or ice cubes freeze in lieu of the state-mandated torture that will now be extended by force to all cable channels.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has unleashed an eight-hour annual address and hosts "Alo Presidente," a Sunday morning talk show that lasts as long as he wants, usually about five hours. And now, there will be no escape, as Reporters Without Borders tell us:
"Reporters Without Borders today reacted with dismay as compulsory airing of President Hugo Chávez's extremely lengthy speeches (cadenas) was extended for the first time to cable channels, meaning no Venezuelan TV viewer will be able to escape them in future.
The presidential programmes allowing the head of state to requisition unlimited airtime from all media for his live speeches, under Article 10 of the Law of Social Responsiblilty in Radio and Television (Resorte law adopted in 2004), was previously limited to terrestrian fequencies.
But under a little-noticed public decree published in the official journal on 22 December 2009, cable channels will also be subjected to the same rule.
Public or private, all media of which 70% of its output is national will under threat of a fine or even 'official suspension' be forced to link up to the frequency of the major state TV channel, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) during a presidential 'cadena'. In addition to his cadenas, the president presents his own Sunday programme on this channel, 'Aló Presidente'."
Surprising? Of course not, when Chavez has an unfortunate history of press repression and is trying to nationalize everything that moves in the name of his Bolivarian revolution. But to subject citizens already beleaguered by rising crime and unemployment to hour upon hour of Chavez sniffing socialist ketchup with Daniel Ortega? Cruel and unusual.
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)