June 28th, 2007 | Published in Google Public Policy
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one of our policy aims is expanding free flows of information around the world, and advancing the practical ability of users to express themselves. The Internet can clearly be a powerful tool for diverse voices to speak and be heard.
Overly optimistic? Maybe. But consider the example of Venezuela's Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), the country's oldest and (until recently) most-watched television network. One month ago today, we welcomed RCTV and its channel elobservadorlinea as a new broadcaster on YouTube.
On May 27, when RCTV's broadcast license expired, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez refused to renew it on the grounds that RCTV violated broadcast laws, supported a botched coup against him in 2002, and more generally offered a decidedly anti-governmental perspective. In spite of protests by thousands in the streets of Caracas, he replaced RCTV on May 28 with a state-run broadcast station. On that same day, RCTV's news department -- operating on reduced staffing -- created a channel on YouTube on which it began airing daily three hour-long installments of its newscast "El Observador."
Since then, many of RCTV's videos on YouTube have generated lively debates about freedom of expression in the "Comments & Responses" section. In the offline world, peaceful protests for freedom of speech and the reinstating of RCTV's broadcast rights continue to this day on the streets of Caracas.
The inaugural post in response to the first elobservadorlinea RCTV video exclaims, "¡Viva la libertad de expresión!" (in English, "Long live freedom of expression!") The debate that follows embodies the Internet's unmatched ability to facilitate the freedom to express, create, contest, debate, complain, and inspire.
So, ¡bienvenido RCTV! We predict and hope your example will inspire others to embrace the Internet as a critical means of communication when other means have been foreclosed.