Date: Mon, 18 May 98 09:18:48 CDT
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: CHILE/Media: "Free Market" = Imprisoned Ideas
/** ips.english: 484.0 **/
** Topic: COMMUNICATIONS: Debate on Pluralism in the Chilean Press **
** Written 4:07 PM May 17, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Debate on Pluralism in the Chilean Press
By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS
14 May 1998
SANTIAGO, May 14 (IPS) - The Chilean government is opposed to
public subsidies or special credits designed to guarantee
pluralism of the press, in spite of warnings from the Chamber of
Deputies that media ownership is becoming increasingly
The Secretary-General of the Government, Minister Jose Joaquin
Brunner said this week that in democracies, the press "does not
function with credits or special subsidies."
"I do not know of any democratic country with a market economy
where pluralism in the system of newspapers is sustained by
anything other than market mechanisms," Brunner told the Chamber
Brunner was invited to a special session of the lower house of
Congress, held to discuss the critical situation of the daily 'La
Epoca', the only national-level newspaper considered independent
of large business groups.
If 'La Epoca' goes under, there will be virtually no
publications to counter the influence of the 'El Mercurio' chain
and the Journalistic Consortium (Copesa), which together account
for around 80 percent of the newspapers sold in Chile.
Deputies of the centre-left governing coalition and the right-wing
opposition approved a draft resolution urging authorities to
study "measures designed to guarantee the fullest pluralism in
Although the lawmakers agreed that the Chilean constitution
guarantees freedom of expression and information and the freedom
of all political or other sectors to establish new media, they
contended that those guarantees did not translate into a situation
of equality, due to the power wielded by certain consortiums,
tight control over distribution channels, and unequal treatment in
the distribution of publicity. They also pointed to takeovers of
Parliamentary deputies of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC),
the Socialist Party (PS) and the For Democracy Party (PPD), which
comprise the centre-left governing coalition, called for
mechanisms to counteract such limitations and ensure diversity in
The legislators cited the experiences of Spain, France, Britain
and other European countries, where limits were set on the share
of the media that could be controlled by any one economic group or
individual. They also suggested subsidies, special credits and the
assignation of publicity quotas to support pluralism.
In a draft law on the press that began to be discussed under
the Patricio Aylwin administration (1990-94), the ruling coalition
introduced mechanisms designed to curb concentration of the media.
But the clauses were rejected by the Senate, where the right
commands a majority. The bill has now gone to a mixed commission
of both the upper and lower houses, which will try to hammer out a
But President Eduardo Frei is opposed to regulations on
property ownership and publicity, and believes the public sector
should not interfere with the private media.
Aylwin took a similar stance, declaring the public TV station
and the daily 'La Nacion' - under executive branch jurisdiction -
"public and non-governmental media," and selling the 'Radio
Nacional' station, which was run by the army during Pinochet's de
According to Minister Brunner, the concentration of media
ownership is a universal phenomenon, and most of the policies
aimed at diversifying the press adopted in Europe were later
The resolution recently passed by the group of deputies
recommends that the state study measures "such as those adopted
in the recent past" in support of media facing critical
situations, as a means of guaranteeing a broad offer - an allusion
to state credits granted by the dictatorship of General Augusto
Pinochet (1973-89) in the early 1980s to bail out the 'El
Mercurio' and Copesa consortiums.
Socialist Deputy Isabel Allende pointed out that 'El Mercurio'
received some 100 million dollars and Copesa around 60 million,
credits that were virtually written off just before Aylwin's
democratic transition government entered office.
The director of the University of Chile's School of Journalism,
Faride Zeran, said the "laundering" of the debts owed to the
central bank prevented any possible changes in ownership once
democracy was reestablished.
Right-wing Deputy Maximiliano Errazuriz, meanwhile, maintained
that the presence of 92 press publications, 700 radio stations,
seven TV channels and 60 cable channels in Chile - a country of 14
million - was evidence of broad pluralism in the media.
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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