New Latin-Focused TV Station Telesur Transmitting

A new TV station backed by Venezuela's government began transmitting Sunday in various countries across Latin America, carrying praise by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the American actor Danny Glover and others.

A video promoting TeleSur that asks 'What is the south?' projects at the inauguration of TeleSur in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 24, 2005. Telesur, a recently launched TV station backed by Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, began transmitting by satellite as part of the test phase for a project organizers say will bring Latin America an alternative to large commercial media outlets. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)

The Telesur network, which organizers call a Latin alternative to large media outlets like CNN, was being seen in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Cuba as well as Venezuela, Chavez said.

"This is part of an awakening of our peoples," Chavez said by phone to a televised inaugural ceremony in Caracas. Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, called the channel a key step toward regional integration.

The station, funded by Venezuela and also backed by Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba, has drawn concern in the U.S. Congress, where House members last week approved a measure to transmit radio and television broadcasts to Venezuela to ensure citizens receive "accurate news."

Chavez has ridiculed the U.S. plan and has said Venezuela is prepared to jam the broadcasts. He also said Venezuela would prevent any signals from interfering with Telesur's programs.

The president likened the satellite channel to the cooperative oil projects Petrosur and Petrocaribe, aimed at sharing Venezuela's fuel with neighboring countries under preferential terms.

He said U.S. leaders, through seeking conflict with his government, want "to assure themselves" Venezuelan oil.

"We want to keep supporting the American people to the point that we can, supplying them energy, but not only to large U.S. companies, or the established power in Washington," said Chavez, whose country remains a major supplier to the United States.

Some critics call Telesur a way to spread anti-American propaganda in South America — an accusation strongly denied by Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra, the station's president.

"It's an initiative against imperialism," Izarra said. "That shouldn't be interpreted, however, as an initiative against the American people."

The station, headquartered in Caracas, is to offer news programs, opinion shows, documentaries and Latin American films.

It is to be on the air four hours a day at first, and eventually 24 hours a day. Test transmissions began two months ago.

Some in Colombia have already expressed concern about promotional footage that used a protest scene in which Colombian rebel leader Manuel Marulanda briefly appeared. But director Aram Aharonian of Uruguay has brushed aside such criticism, saying the channel will support independent journalism.

Glover, a station board member and strong supporter of Chavez, said the station has a key role acting as a counterbalance to the "giant to the north."

Other advisory board members include the Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel and the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, reported AP.

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