- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2007

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Venezuela’s new government-run Social Television (TVes) channel, created by President Hugo Chavez to replace the independent RCTV that he closed last week, has pulled a Miami-produced program off the air under threat of being sued for piracy.

“It’s a flagrant rip-off of our product,” said Alfonso Guerra, executive producer of Wide Angle Productions, who sent a letter to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington on Monday threatening to sue the Venezuelan government if the show was not taken off the air within 48 hours.

“We want to let you know that TVes has not acquired rights to put ‘Destino X’ on the air,” Mr. Guerra wrote to Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera.

Interviewed yesterday by telephone in his Miami office, Mr. Guerra said the piracy of the program reflects a “serious lack of professionalism” and calls into question the way TVes is run.

“Destino X” is a popular travel and lifestyle series which has been widely distributed in the United States and other countries for four years.

TVes went on the air last week, amid daily protests in Venezuela, where polls show 70 percent of the public opposes the closure of RCTV, the country’s oldest TV station.

TVes “is very anxious to have programs that will attract viewers” to fill airtime once occupied by Venezuela’s most popular soap operas, said a media analyst who thinks the station’s budget and production capacity are very limited.

Mr. Chavez has said the new station aims to have a “more human, socially responsible and educational content.”

Programming so far has combined light entertainment with educational programs, group discussions and news reports highlighting Mr. Chavez’s achievements.

Mr. Guerra said that TVes obtained “Destino X” “through distributors that we don’t deal with, and that we don’t know. They pirated the series and are illegally trafficking our product.”

The new Venezuelan state channel has agreed to take the program off the air temporarily until a settlement can be reached.

“I hope it’s [off the air] permanently,” said Mr. Guerra. “It’s creating a negative situation for us.”

Mr. Guerra said he is also seeking to have “Destino X” taken off the TVes Web site, http://tves.com.ve/parrillaprogramacion.html.

According to the show’s producers, the distributor has agreed to pay a penalty by today as demanded by Wide Angle Productions, which has threatened to initiate a million-dollar law suit.

“But we haven’t received the check yet,” Mr. Guerra said yesterday.

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