The Regulation, Media and Convergence Observatory (OBSERVACOM) and the Association for the Progress of Communications (APC), held a “Meeting on the concentration of digital media and convergence in Latin America” in Montevideo, Uruguay, on February 4 and 5, 2016 which was attended by academic and civil society experts from around the region in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression.
The main objective of the meeting was to analyze how the processes of digitization and convergence of audiovisual media services and broadband technologies impact media concentration, and thus citizens’ freedom of expression and access to information in Latin America.
Faced with a rapidly shifting landscape, it is possible to observe the change of audiovisual and telecommunications operators such as we know them today, and how services like Over the Top (OTT) affect or replace traditional audiovisual services. Telecommunications companies have transferred to the audiovisual sector, buying media companies and producing content. Meanwhile, wireless broadband services are taking over more of the spectrum, capturing space from broadcasting services, causing higher concentration and creating obstacles for the entry of new players as they reduce the number of available frequencies for both TV and radio.
For decades in the Latin American region, civil society and academic organizations have persistently denounced the concentration of audiovisual services and the significant effect that this has had on freedom of expression, the right to information and the exercise of independent journalism.
The strong expansion of Internet in the region has led us to wonder whether the phenomenon of concentration is also being reproduced in the new digital environment. For the organizations and analysts who were consulted and participated in the workshop prepared by OBSERVACOM and APC, these processes also occur with relation to the Internet and on a much larger scale. Online, only a handful of large transnational corporations control the flow of information, infrastructure and services, something that is not visible given that one of the other layers of the Internet (where millions of social network users, bloggers and youtubers produce their own content) gives the impression that the whole concept of concentration is obsolete.
All of these phenomena that are the result of digitization and convergence have become a challenge in terms of regulations and the design of public policies, in particular those required to implement measures to protect the exercise of fundamental human rights, to guarantee universal access to information and ensure the pluralism and diversity necessary for any democratic society.
OBSERVACOM believes it is vital to undertake research and analysis and make proposals on these issues. Furthermore, we believe that there is a need to generate discussions among the stakeholders involved so that, from the point of view of guaranteeing rights, a more accurate assessment of the situation is obtained along with appropriate responses to these new local and global challenges. In this sense, the April issue of our newsletter is dedicated to a selection of the different papers that resulted from our meeting in Uruguay. We hope these selected articles contribute to this urgent debate in Latin America.