Crisis Wont Stop Colombian Licensing


Cartagena, Colombia -- The controversial exit of three
members of Colombia's

television-regulatory commission, the CNTV, represents the
biggest crisis in its three-and-one-half-year history, although government officials
claimed that it will not slow the country's cable-licensing process.

CNTV commissioner Alvaro Pava submitted his resignation
last week, although it hasn't been accepted by authorities. The CNTV became snarled
in controversy in late August, when two other commissioners -- Mónica de Greiff and Jorge
Valencia -- were asked to step down by Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, the
Conservative party president who came to power in May.

In a prepared statement at the Andina Link cable
convention, held here concurrently with the dismissals of de Greiff and Valencia, CNTV
commissioner Carlos Muños said Colombia's cable-licensing awards "will be
announced by mid-October," as scheduled. He was expected to deliver the speech in
person, but it was faxed in and read by a representative instead.

The sackings of de Greiff and Valencia have drawn an angry
response from the opposition Liberal party because the two were appointed by the Liberals,
and they had not yet completed their four-year CNTV terms, which were due to end in June
1999. They were replaced by Jorge Hernández and Sergio Quiroz -- both allies of the
Pastrana administration.

Amid accusations of political vengeance -- which the
government strenuously denies -- the Liberal party is currently pursing the issue in the
courts. There is little indication so far, however, that this will affect the
cable-licensing process, which promises to straighten out an industry dominated by a
multitude of unregulated operations referred to alternatively as "pirates" or

The key CNTV commissioners responsible for cable are Muñoz
and Eugenio Merlano, who continue in their current positions. Nevertheless, the absence of
both of these officials at Andina Link has been attributed to the crisis within the CNTV.

The third Andina Link event was bigger and better-attended
than past years. This year, space covered by exhibitors rose by more than 10 percent
compared with 1997. Also, a number of international programmers -- such as Discovery
Communications Latin America/Iberia and Turner Broadcasting Systems Latin America Inc. --
decided to pay for booth space for the first time.