AT&T, already under Wall Street pressure to hive off its DirecTV subsidiary, is facing further complications with one of its DirecTV Latino divisions.
On May 22nd, the Venezuelan High Court ordered that all DirecTV property and operations be seized. This include technical installations, relay dishes and other assets.
The application to the court was the result of AAT&T/DirecTV’s own decision made earlier in the week to cut off its broadcasts to Venezuela and in compliance with the US State Department’s rule that US businesses observe US sanctions against the administration of President Nicolas Maduro.
A lawyer and supporter of President Maduro, María Alejandra Díaz, reportedly told journalists outside the court that DirecTV’s signals – which include channels specified by the local government – are required to be carried and that the broadcaster is legally bound to carry.
“DirecTV unilaterally and illegally suspended the right to freedom of expression and communication for almost 10 million Venezuelans,” Díaz said. “It is not true to say that DirecTV could not comply with internal regulations.”
AT&T’s statement to the Associated Press earlier in the week said: “Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DirecTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela, a decision that was made by the company’s US leadership team without any involvement or prior knowledge of the DirecTV Venezuela team.”
DirecTV is a major broadcasting force in Venezuela with a 44 per cent share of the pay-TV market.
AT&T is not alone is suspending services. General Motors, Kellogg and Kimberly-Clark have all withdrawn from Venezuela citing falling sales, government threats and the US sanctions.