Conflicts & War

Venezuelan high court orders gov’t to seize, reactivate DirecTV

Caracas, May 22 (efe-epa).- Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered the government to take control of the installations of DirecTV in the Andean nation and restore the signal two days after US-based parent company AT&T shut down the service in compliance with Washington’s sanctions against the government in Caracas.

The court said that Conatel, the telecommunications regulatory agency, must “take immediate possession of all movable and immovable assets, commercial offices, administrative headquarters, operation and transmission centers, antennas and any other equipment or installation.”

DirecTV was serving roughly 2 million Venezuelan households when AT&T terminated the operation on Tuesday.

Once in control of DirecTV, Conatel is to “immediately” restore the satellite signal to subscribers and the agency will be able to count on support from the Venezuelan armed forces in carrying out the task, the Supreme Court said.

Conatel was instructed to appoint an acting board of directors for DirecTV with agency director Jorge Marquez Monsalve as chairman.

The new board will determine whether subscribers are entitled to rebates for the period when the signal was down.

Cable and satellite providers in Venezuela are required by law to allocate a minimum 8 percent of total programming to national broadcast channels, including Globovision and state-run PDVSA TV.

But US sanctions aimed at toppling the government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro bar firms and individuals in the United States from doing business with state entities in Venezuela, such as PDVSA TV.

And while Globovision is a privately owned outlet opposed to Maduro, the network was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in January 2019 for ostensibly “illicit foreign exchange operations.”

Caught between the US prohibition on dealings with PDVSA TV and Globovision and Venezuela’s insistence that the two networks be carried, AT&T decided to pull the plug on DirecTV in the oil-rich country.

“Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DirecTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela,” the US telecoms giant said in a statement earlier this week.

AT&T said that management at DirecTV Venezuela were not told in advance of the decision to shut down. EFE

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