Observacom
Análisis - Argentina

Regulating the Not-for-Profit Sector: A Pending Matter Five Years after the Approval of the Audiovisual Law

“There is a difference between the results of the 2010 census and the AFSCA adjudications policy. The type of service that was awarded more tenders was cable operators (the majority of them from the cooperative sector), which leaves TV channels and radio stations behind. All of the adjudications went to cities without disputes over broadcasting space.”

Dr. Santiago Marino, Dr. Guillermo Mastrini, Dr. Martín Becerra, Carolina Rubini, and Agustín Espada (*)/ Argentina, april 2015

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 Argentina is one of the Latin American countries that recently reformed its regulatory framework for the audiovisual media. Above and beyond the details of its application –to which we have referred in earlier texts-, several aspects of the Audiovisual Communication Services Law (LSCA) stand out, including the progress made in regard to recognizing the not-for-profit sector and the decision to reserve 33% of the spectrum for it.

Five years after its approval, and with the judicial dispute over the constitutionality of four articles that had been protested by the Clarín Group resolved in 2013, it is important to review the other aspects of its application. The research program on Cultural Industries and Public Space (ICEP) and the master’s degree program in Cultural Industries, Policy, and Management offered by Universidad Nacional de Quilmes conducted a study on the progress made in regard to the granting of licenses, authorizations, permits, recognition, and adjudications that the Federal Authority on Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA) has handled since the approval of the LSCA. Specifically, the study covered aspects related to the media sector managed by not-for-profit organizations. The most noteworthy findings include the difference between the results of the 2010 census and the AFSCA adjudication policy; the fact that cable operators were awarded the most adjudications (the majority of them from the cooperative sector), which leaves behind TV channels and radio stations; and the location of adjudications (the majority went to cities without disputes over broadcasting space).

The report, which was entitled Diagnóstico sobre el acceso del sector sin fines de lucro a medios audiovisuales en la Argentina 2014. Licencias, autorizaciones, permisos y fondos concursables, shows that Argentina has yet to regulate the not-for-profit sector for which –as the LSCA states- a technical plan of frequencies must be developed. Such a plan, combined with a record that lists all of the operating organizations, would allow for bidding competitions to be held successfully, particularly in areas with conflicts. The report also shows that the not-for-profit sector is growing more in the area of cable TV than open radio and TV channels.

Methodological Aspects

This analysis is based on data from several sources. They include “official” sources (AFSCA resolutions), “semi-official” sources (census of not-for-profit organizations conducted by AFSCA in 2010), and journalistic sources (reports by media outlets such as the newspaper La Nación and the Website chequeado.com). Initially, entities that do not seek to generate profit were identified based on the use of legal tools set out in the legislation. Next, a study was conducted of the organizations and results regarding the current situation of the sector were obtained.

The focus was placed on the ability of not-for-profit organizations to obtain licenses, authorizations, permits, recognition, and adjudications. The sources were useful for developing an assessment of the real conditions of the not-for-profit sector in regard to accessing management of audiovisual media in Argentina.

Main Results

First, it was found that the 2010 census identified 1,094 not-for-profit media entities, including unauthorized entities, licensees, recognized organizations, and permitted entities. AFSCA also granted 114 titles (including authorizations and adjudications) during the period under study (2011-2014) to organizations that did not appear in that census, thus identifying new organizations from the third sector. In that sense, other legal recognitions than those that already appeared in the organizations identified in the census were used.

While FM channels represented the largest number of outlets awarded in the 2010 census, the AFSCA research found that the type of service to which the most adjudications were awarded was cable operators (the majority in the cooperative sector). In that instance, only 76 not-for-profit organizations identified themselves as “licensees” and 924 identified as “unauthorized services.” Both unauthorized and licensed organizations were geographically positioned in the same three provinces: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Santa Fe. The geographic concentration of audiovisual communication services in the central area of the country, that is, the recognized conflict area regarding the number of media outlets, is worthy of note.

Based on the results of the census, AFSCA generated direct adjudications for third sector organizations with different types of media (especially cable operators) with a focus on those same provinces: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Santa Fe, though not in the most populated cities.

AFSCA resolutions from 2011-2014 (without including cable operators) show that the greatest number of adjudications (37) went to FM stations. In regard to geographic distribution, Salta province presents the greatest number of adjudications of FM stations (7), followed by Córdoba and Misiones (5), Mendoza, Tucumán (4), Santa Fé (3), and Santiago del Estero and Chubut (2). Buenos Aires, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, San Luis, and San Juan obtained one FM station each. The rest (including the city of Buenos Aires) did not receive any FM adjudications.

In noting that only 37 adjudications of FM stations were awarded in five years, it is recognized that the geographic distribution for those few broadcasting entities was diverse. However, this equality does not translate into equity. The lack of competitions and adjudications in areas with the greater number of unauthorized media outlets according to the 2010 census only underscores the need for a Technical Frequencies Plan.

Another key aspect is that based on the AFSCA resolutions, the authorizations for not-for-profit organizations to operate low potency TV channels were included. This type of media had not been considered in the census.

The report also analyzed the developments in the area of authorizations granted to indigenous groups’ media outlets (which do not use the 33% reserved for not-for-profit entities). The majority of the authorizations were for FM channels along with a single TV channel.

In addition, researchers considered the results of the FOMECA competitions for the distribution of funds among not-for-profit entities that could be used in various areas (equipment, content production, production costs). It was found that 89.29% of the winners were not-for-profit organizations that met the LSCA definition and the remaining 10.71% were organizations of indigenous peoples. The strong participation of organizations located in the city of Buenos Aires (69 including both media outlets and producers) is further evidence of the need to hold competitions in conflict areas. It is also necessary to have authorization, a permit or a license in order to participate in the various lines of funding, which adds another motive for resolving this issue of the third sector in Argentina.

Finally, the study shows that there is still ground to be covered in regard to meeting the fundamental aspect of the LSCA: the guarantee of new rights for the not-for-profit sector.

(*) ICEP- UNQ Cultural Industries master’s degree program

RELATED LINKS:

¿En qué quedó la “Ley de medios”?

El impacto de la Ley

Ley de Medios: buscan estrategias para impulsar al sector sin fines de lucro

Balance de la aplicación de la Ley Audiovisual

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