- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - The studios of the Venezuelan television channel RCTV used to be filled with thousands of actors, production assistants and other employees. Today, nearly five years after the channel was forced off the air by the government, the building seems largely empty.

Station executive Marcel Granier said Tuesday that he hopes the channel still may be able to return to the airwaves if President Hugo Chavez is defeated in October’s presidential election.

Talking with reporters at RCTV’s studios, Granier called the channel’s removal from the airwaves a “violation of human rights and an attack on free expression.”

RCTV took a strongly critical line against Chavez and his socialist-oriented policies, and his government refused to renew its broadcast license in 2007, accusing it of having supported a failed coup against him in 2002.

The channel ended its over-the-air broadcasts on May 28, 2007, and it later was forced off cable and satellite TV in 2010.

RCTV has financial troubles but has managed to survive, said Granier, who heads Empresas 1BC, which owns the channel. Its remaining employees produce programs for other channels in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America, and it also has kept up a news program shown on the Internet.

Granier said RCTV had to cut thousands of jobs after it was forced off the air. He said it now has about 500 employees.

Founded in 1953, RCTV was the oldest channel on the air in Venezuela before 2007.

When RCTV was forced off cable and satellite TV in 2010, Globovision was left as the country’s sole remaining anti-Chavez channel. Other private TV channels have curbed their criticisms of Chavez’s government in recent years.