Various countries in the region are losing an opportunity to promote pluralism and diversity through the transition to digital TV, according to the 2016 Regional Report on Diversity and Digital TV published by OBSERVACOM
Various countries in the region are losing an opportunity to promote pluralism and diversity through the transition to digital TV, with the taking of decisions on the use of the spectrum and plans for the implementation of the new technology frequently consolidating or even worsening situations of undue concentration in the audiovisual sector, to the detriment of pluralism and diversity, warns the 2016 Regional Report on Diversity and Digital TV published by OBSERVACOM. However, in a very unequal process of transition to digital terrestrial television (DTT) in Latin America, the report also stresses that there are good practices in the region linked to universal access to open broadcast TV, the sector’s recognition of community digital TV, and the promotion of national and independent audiovisual production.
These are some of the findings of the comparative study carried out by the Observatory for Regulation, Media and Convergence (OBSERVACOM) updated to May 2016, which analyzes the processes of transition to free-to-air digital television in eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
The aim of the report was to analyze the compatibility of the processes of digital transition in the aforementioned countries with the «Freedom of Expression Standards for the Transition to a Diverse, Plural and Inclusive Free-to-Air Digital Television» contained in the 2014 Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
From the regional analysis and more in-depth national case studies undertaken, the main findings are as follows:
In most countries, public policies on digital TV continue to be designed without the active participation of civil society and stakeholders. Although there are some examples of virtual public consultations (Uruguay, Mexico), these are neither binding nor sufficient.
A number of countries have maintained the current status quo with respect to analog TV in the new digital environment, replicating the structure of use of the existing spectrum and allocating the savings of the spectrum generated by the digitizing process to the same current operators, which prevents the possibility of promoting a more diverse television media system.
The report notes that in countries such as Peru and Panama, the implementation of digital TV has even enhanced the undue concentration that previously existed.
In terms of access to new operators, various countries have shown good practices through the recognition given to community television, even setting aside areas of the spectrum for this sector, which has traditionally been excluded from the communications process (Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina).
There are countries where regulatory mechanisms have been defined that would enable the entry of community and public operators (Bolivia), while others have expanded the diversity of the three media sectors as well as commercial media (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Mexico). In countries such as Brazil and Venezuela, there have been no attempts to enable the entry of new commercial television operators.
In most countries, public media does not have enough support to make the transition to digital television, both in terms of technology and infrastructure, or the ability to cope with the challenges of audiovisual operations and production resulting from the digitization process. However, in some countries digitization has led to the improved development of State management of the media (Peru, Argentina).
A greater amount of media does not mean a greater diversity of content, information and opinions. A number of countries have implemented policies and tools to promote national audiovisual production, some of it even independent from present operators. However, the results of greater diversity of content in the television media are still scarce.
There have been some good practices in the region to support people on low incomes, so that they may obtain the appropriate devices needed to receive the new digital services, thus preventing the exclusion of the most vulnerable social sectors in terms of access to the new digital signals (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico).
The growing pressure of telecommunications companies to obtain an even greater part of the spectrum used for broadcasting services could lead to a strong impact on the radio and free-to-air television sectors, which provide a vital support to the exercise of freedom of expression in our respective societies.
For access to the full report (in Spanish) please click on the following: