US network's Venezuelan coverage ordered off air

Officials identifying themselves as members of a Venezuelan state regulatory agency forced the US-based Spanish-language TV network Telemundo to halt transmission Sunday of its election coverage, the company said. "We're surprised by this," said Pablo Iacub, a member of Telemundo's eight-person coverage team, which arrived last week. "We only want to do our work," he said by telephone. At least six people who identified themselves as members of the National Commission of Telecommunications, or Conatel, which regulates electronic media in Venezuela, arrived Sunday afternoon at the hotel from which Telemundo had been transmitting since Friday, Iacub said. The officials said the network did not have permission to transmit and ordered it to stop, Iacub said. He added that he was unaware of such a requirement but said the Telemundo journalists were accredited by Venezuela's national elections council. Iacub said the Telemundo team asked how it could obtain permission and was later told it would not be able to resume transmitting. Phone calls to Conatel offices seeking comment went unanswered. Telemundo Communications Group is owned by NBC Universal Inc., which is controlled by General Electric Co. It claims to reach about 93 percent of US Hispanic households and also has viewers in Mexico.