National Assembly Extends TV Broadcasting Licenses

September 19, 2008

The National Assembly last week approved a measure to extend indefinitely the operating licenses for TV and radio stations while legislators debate more profound reforms to Nicaraguan broadcasting laws.

The new measure will extend operating licenses until the National Assembly passes more comprehensive reforms of the telecommunications law.

The National Assembly s Economic Commission is also taking up a proposal to restore tax exemptions for newspapers, radio and TV stations that were taken away in a 2005 reform, known as the Arce Law, named after then-Sandinista legislator Bayardo Arce.

While the Sandinista government pumps more resources into state-run media the new Sandinista weekly El 19 debuted last month Liberal Party legislators have pledged to support a restoration of tax exemptions for the media and pass reforms to protect press freedoms.

The license extension law was passed last week after TV commentator Jaime Arellano, a staunch critic of President Daniel Ortega, was kicked off the air last month amid Channel 2 TV s efforts to renew their broadcasting license with the telecom regulatory agency TELCOR, which is controlled by Ortega loyalists.

Opposition legislators have said that a reform to Nicaraguan broadcasting law is crucial to avoid a situation like the one that occurred in Venezuela, where the government quieted the critical RCTV station last year by failing to renew its broadcasting license.

Nicaraguan media experts, however, have warned that the indefinite extension to all broadcasting licenses here is not as good as the original 10-year extension that media owners had asked for, because they will still be subject to the any forthcoming legislation perhaps as early as next year which could ultimately be more restrictive that the current laws.

 

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