Radio has a long and acknowledged history in Venezuela, but during the last decade many stations or programs have continuously been censored, shut down or sold to pro-government groups by Conatel, in what many associations have seen as an intromission of the government, proving the vulnerable position of the media. One of the organisations defending radios is the Cámara Venezolana de la Industria de la Radiodifusión (Venezuelan Chamber of Radio Broadcasting Industry), founded in 1950, which is the main independent association of radio stations in Venezuela. In 2018, 5.4 percent of Venezuelans used radio as their main source of information according to a survey by Instituto Delphos, but it was 8 percent if we follow the figures of Hinterlaces (2017). In any case, there has been a loss of trust after the government intervention, what has made radio penetration and its relevance decrease.
In spite of the variety of stations, only Radio Nacional de Venezuela, the state-owned and biggest radio broadcaster of the country, reaches almost every part of it, being the only one available in some border zones (González, 2015) and in many small regions all the radiophonic options are controlled by the state (IPYS, Armando.info & Poderopedia, 2015). Important stations that belong to the state are Radio Nacional de Venezuela, YVKE Mundial or Circuito Radial PDVSA (this last one via the monopolistic oil company), while some of the private broadcasters, joined under the Cámara Venezolana de la Industria de la Radiodifusión (Venezuelan Chamber of the Broadcasting Industry), are Circuito Unión Radio, FM Center, Circuito X and Circuito Radio Venezuela. The only two radio stations focused exclusively on news are Radio Nacional de Venezuela and Unión Radio, both FM- Similarly to the newspapers and the whole media system in Venezuela, state-owned stations are clearly loyal to the government, while private ones are usually very critical, thus creating an obvious division and making it hard to find independent stations. In this context, radio stations –mainly private ones– have suffered censorship and the deficiency of the telecommunications system: IPYS (2019a) counted 65 radio stations that were victims of blackouts, delinquency or censorship, what affected their broadcasting, just during the first semester of 2019.
In April 2019, Radio Caracas Radio, one of the oldest and most relevant private radio stations of Venezuela, had its concession removed by Conatel after years of asking for a renovation of it. In the same line, in 2017, 54 stations closed, of which 52 in the inner and rural part of the country (Espacio Público, 2018). According to the survey of Instituto Delphos, radio is most popular among the older, less wealthy and rural population. This is partly explained because radio has a strong capacity to adapt to smaller communities and community radios have had the support of the Government, as it has been able to control them in an easier way. In 2002 the Reglamento de Radiodifusión Sonora y Televisión Abierta Comunitarias de Servicio Público sin fines de lucro (Rule of Communitarian Public Service not for profit Radiobradcasting and Open Television) was approved, promoting these kind of community radios and TV stations, although the second ones are less relevant. Conatel counted more than 300 community radios in June 2018, like for example Radio Chuspa in the region of Vargas. Other radio stations aimed to particular groups are the religious Shalom or the internationally present Radio María, as well as Fe y Alegría, an educational radio station belonging to the Catholic Church, originally aimed at uneducated adults left out of the system and at indigenous populations, but widening their goals into different fields of education since their appearing in 1975. Their programming mixes Spanish and indigenous languages such as Wayuu and their informative offer is relevant, although they depend strongly on State’s funding. The state-owned Radio Nacional de Venezuela (National Radio of Venezuela - RNV) offers an indigenous channel in some regions of the country where these communities are most present. All these small radios have profited from the arrival of Internet and new platforms that allow them to reach new audiences without big investments or to broadcast only via Internet, what has increased the number of small and community radios or stations with a very specific target audience.