Análisis - Argentina

Public Television in Argentina: limitations and potential

“Channel 7 continues to repeat old vices, anchored in its origins as the official mouthpiece, an issue that directly contradicts one of the emblematic features of the law: the democratization of voices.”

 Yamila Heram */ Argentina, May 2015


It has been over five years since the Law on Audiovisual Communications Services (LSCA) was passed in Argentina, and there are many issues still to deal with. One of the questions that we should ask is: what happened to Channel 7? And while the question is certainly broad, the point is to focus on public television –as it refers to itself- from the point of view of what is actually implied. So what exactly should Channel 7 be offering the public? What has happened to its program schedule five years after the law was approved? This leads us to think in terms of content, and precisely one of the points that the law has not explicitly addressed is this unquestionable decision, given that to intervene in this area would represent an extremely authoritarian approach. The interest in Channel 7 is accompanied by the question of power, given that the channel could and should make a difference in terms of the rest of the commercial programming, for it is precisely this channel that is not tied to the interests of the market and, in turn, has access to the necessary economic resources, so often absent in the non-profit media. To think of Channel 7 as public television obliges us to think in terms of higher quality, diversification of voices, media pluralism and independence from the Government.

However, if we carry out a test we can see that Channel 7 continues to repeat old vices, anchored in its origins as official mouthpiece, an issue that directly contradicts one of the emblematic features of the law: the democratization of voices. One of the programs of public television that meets, although in reverse, with all the characteristics of what should be presented is 678. The scenario that is here being proposed is in terms of pairings in a «media war», positioning itself as a space for offsetting the manipulation of the mass media, the main opponent to which it directs its discourse being the organized oligopoly of the Clarín group. In terms of the characteristics that should be provided by a public television channel, it is somewhat inauspicious to observe such a meta-television program with the peculiarities of 678. The reasons are as follows: 1) it is a mouthpiece for the ideology of the government, which would be quite acceptable if it were a voice among many others circulating on public television. We should remember that Article 121, paragraph b, states that one of the objectives of Radio y Televisión Argentina Sociedad del Estado is to «Respect and promote political, religious, social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic pluralism.» With regard to the political pluralism of the 9 news programs currently offered by the channel, i.e., Nadia 6:30; VISION 7 morning edition; Vision 7 lunchtime edition; Vision 7 Central edition; Visión 7 Summary; Vision 7 International; Vision 7 Saturday; Visión 7 Sunday, and 678, although it is possible to find certain nuances, in general terms very little political pluralism is actually promoted. 2) These programs are created by the private producer Pensando para Television (PPT) or Thinking for Television, and although it is true that the law explicitly states in Article 123 that a minimum of 60% of the programs transmitted by «Radio y Televisión Argentina Sociedad del Estado” should be in-house productions, and that 20% should be independent productions from all the media at its disposition”, we must not forget that the private company that produces 678 in turn produces other meta-television programs such as TVR and Duro de Domar for a privately owned channel, and that much of the content it broadcasts is similar in terms of both channels, duplicating its profitability. 3) The program is transmitted from Tuesday to Friday and on Sunday, that is to say, it has a strong scheduling presence in opposition to the diversification of programming (moreover it is repeated after midnight); 4) it is structured in terms of official propaganda and advertising, going so far as to present short blocks of a few minutes (towards the end of the program) whose only function is to present official propaganda.

Given such defects of the channel, the same media law has provided for an Honorary Advisory Council on Public Media, the task of which is to monitor adherence to the law by Radio y Televisión Argentina Sociedad del Estado and report on any infringements, as well as acting as a consultative body. This entity could thus respond to any lack in political pluralism, so avoiding any discrepancy between the letter of the law and what is actually proposed as editorial content.

Channel 7 is required to include in its programming schedule «cultural, scientific and educational content that promote and strengthen the training and education of all sectors of society», and it is certainly true that very interesting documentaries on topics linked to human rights issues in the past have been transmitted, although there has been a dearth of programs dealing with current issues. The program “Una tarde cualquiera” (Any Afternoon) is the best advocate in terms of the diversification of voices; the late-night films that are broadcast offer a choice of quality cinema. However, this is not an attempt to offer an anthology of what was supposed to be the function of this TV station. It is not what has been achieved but rather everything that is missing that represents the inauspicious question with regard to the issue of the diversification of voices.

* Doctorate in Social Sciences (UBA). Conicet


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