MIAMI (AP) — AT&T said Tuesday it will immediately ditch Venezuela’s pay TV market as US sanctions prohibit its DirecTV platform from broadcasting channels that it is required to carry by the socialist administration of Nicolás Maduro.
The Dallas-based company’s closing of its Venezuela unit is effective immediately.
It follows a decision by the Trump administration not to renew a license it had granted AT&T to continue carrying Globovision, a private network, sanctioned by the US, owned by a businessman close to Maduro who is wanted on US money laundering charges, three people familiar with the situation told the AP.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss US government licensing activity.
AT&T joins a number of other US companies — General Motors, Kellogg Co. and Kimberly-Clark — that have abandoned Venezuela due to shrinking sales, government threats and the risk of US sanctions.
Around 700 Venezuelans depended on the unit for employment.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
AT&T has a 44% share of the pay TV market and its departure is likely to hit hard working-class barrios of larger cities and the interior that depend on DirecTV for access to information and entertainment.
An Associated Press investigation from January found that AT&T had been under increasing pressure from the Trump administration to stand up to Maduro’s censors, who since 2017 have ordered the removal of some 10 channels, including CNN en Español, that had broadcast anti-government protests.
Local regulators accuse the channels of violating the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television, which seeks to guarantee socially responsible programming but that press freedom groups consider it a tool to muzzle critical coverage due to its ambiguous language and heavy penalties.
DirecTV is also a major platform for the broadcast of state-run TV outlets criticised by the opposition as propaganda.