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Date: Mon, 18 May 98 09:18:48 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: CHILE/Media: "Free Market" = Imprisoned Ideas
Article: 35132
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.10941.19980520001517@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** 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 concentrated.

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 of Deputies.

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 news."

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 provincial newspapers.

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 media.

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 compromise formula.

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 facto regime.

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 overturned.

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.


Origin: Montevideo/COMMUNICATIONS/

[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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