Argentinian government decides to suspend the signal of news channels RT and Telesur from free-to-air digital TV

The Argentinian government has decided to remove from air international news channels Russia Today in Spanish (RT), which is funded by the Russian government, and Telesur, a network created by late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Both signals will be suspended from the free-to-air digital television network, according to Agencia Diarios y Noticias (DyN).

According to government sources consulted by the news agency, this decision by the new government of President Mauricio Macri occurred because of the need to open the TDA spectrum to television signals from the provinces.

In the case of RT in Spanish, the media reported that the administrator of state media in Argentina, the network Radio y Televisión Argentina, Sociedad del Estado (RTA SE), publicly announced on June 9 that it will suspend the signal of the television news channel RT in Spanish, which airs on free-to-air digital television throughout the country.

The signal of RT in Spanish– formerly known as Russia Today – was broadcast for the first time in Argentina in October 2014 when then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015) and Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly inaugurated its first showing on the Argentine free-to-air digital television network during a live videoconference.

For Fernández, the entry of RT to public digital television would bring the country a “plurality of voices and cultures, (…) [and would allow access to information] without the intermediation of large international brands that transmit news according to their interests,” news agency EFE reported.

The director of RT in Spanish, Victoria Vorontzova, lamented that with this decision the new Argentine government rejects an alternative point of view of information, alluding to its efforts to strengthen its ties with the United States, RT published on its site.

For international analyst Stella Calloni, it is violating freedom of expression in Argentina, persecuting opinions that are contrary to those of the government, RT reported.

The Russian channel, which has worldwide reach and is headquartered in Moscow, broadcasts news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to RT, its audience is 80 percent of the Argentine national population (between 33 and 35 million viewers

Last March, the Argentinian government announced the exit of the multi-state news channel Telesur, which has operated from Caracas, Venezuela since 2005, from the grid of the TDA. Telesur was launched as a project of Latin American television by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

The cable news signal consisted of several Latin American countries, with Venezuela as majority shareholder. It will also stop airing publicly and for free in Argentina in the coming days.

In announcing the decision, Argentina Minister of Public Media and Content, Hernán Lombardi, said that the decision was in response to austerity measures dictated by the current government.

Since 2010, Telesur was included on a mandatory basis in the international segment of the private cable companies, and was also transmitted in the Argentine state platform of free-to-air digital television, by order of the now-defunct Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (Afsca for its initials in Spanish), during Fernández’s first government.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.