Judge tosses RCTV claims against DirecTV on Venezuela broadcasts

NEW YORK Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:14pm EST

NEW YORK Jan 17 (Reuters) - A New York judge has dismissed claims against DirecTV Latin America for ending the distribution of programming by broadcaster RCTV under pressure from the Venezuelan government.

"The court cannot force DTV to act as RCTV's champion in its feud with the government of Venezuela," Justice Shirley Kornreich wrote in her decision, filed on Wednesday in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The case stems from a move by Venezuela revoking RCTV's license in May 2007, saying the channel was opposed to President Hugo Chavez. The action against RCTV, Venezuela's oldest broadcaster, was condemned internationally.

RCTV then entered into a five-year agreement with DirecTV Latin America in July 2007 to distribute its signal to subscribers in Venezuela.

According to court papers, CONATEL, a Venezuelan regulatory agency, published new broadcasting regulations in December 2009 and on Jan. 20, 2010, the agency told RCTV it would be classified as a national channel under the regulations and be required to carry certain broadcasts.

On Jan. 22, 2010, DirecTV told RCTV that CONATEL informed them the broadcaster had failed to carry a mandatory government message, court papers say.

On Jan. 24, 2010, DirecTV removed RCTV's signal from its subscription package in Latin America, according to the papers.

RCTV claims DirecTV acted without a Venezuela government order to take them off the air. However, even if that were the case, the judge cited an agreement showing DirecTV was allowed to suspend distribution if it "could be politically inadvisable or could be found ... to violate the law."

The ruling granted DirecTV's motion to dismiss RCTV's counterclaims in a case DirecTV brought seeking a declaration that its actions in terminating its agreement with RCTV were justified. The case continues.

Representatives of RCTV and DirecTV did not immediately return calls for comment.

DirecTV Latin America is a subsidiary of DirecTV, a provider of digital television service.

The case is DirecTV Latin America, LLC v RCTV International Corp., 651824/2011, New York state Supreme Court, New York County.

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