«The report on Chile that was presented to the Assembly noted that the main threat to the freedom of expression in the country was found in recently approved legislation or legislation that is in the approval processes…»
Chiara Sáez Baeza*/Chile, November 2014.
In the context of the implementation of the Digital TV Law, the requirement of providing four hours of cultural programming per week continues to awaken criticism in the industry despite the fact that the regulation generated by the National TV Council (CNTV) contains a series of technical loopholes that allow the requirement to be relaxed. For example, a new cultural programming regulation states that a cultural micro program that lasts for one to five minutes will count as part of the required cultural programming up to its fifth repetition each day.
In addition, the final document of the Digital TV Technical Plan submitted by the Ministry of Transportation to the Comptroller General of the Republic has generated controversy for civil society organizations. This is due to the fact that the document was leaked to interested parties that do not form part of the Civil Society Council of the Office of the Undersecretary of Telecommunications, the agency responsible for overseeing civil participation in these matters. Meanwhile, the latter has refused to grant official access to the text, something that is paradoxical given that the request to develop a public consultation on the regulation emerged from that body.
The program for the seminar “Pluralism in Society and TV” organized by CNTV and Televisión Nacional (TVN), a TV channel, on November 19 is also of concern. The invited panelists discussed a notion of pluralism with which the incorporation of academics hardly departs from the logic of party democracy (in terms of social pluralism). In terms of television pluralism, the only panelists are representatives of the channels that form part of the National Television Association (ANATEL), which represents the major national channels on open television and TVN, the country’s self-financed public TV channel.
Considering the importance that the new law gives to pluralism by linking it to proper functioning –that is, the constitutional mandate of CNTV- and requiring specific regulations for pluralism of opinions on news channels, it is concerning that the first public event held by CNTV on the topic following the passage of the law refuses to think about pluralism in the terms that the law itself sets out.
In addition, the 70th General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Society (SIP), which brings together the owners, editors and directors of newspapers and news agencies from throughout the Americas, was held October 17-21 in Santiago.
The report on Chile that was presented to the Assembly noted that the main threat to the freedom of expression in the country was found in recently approved legislation or legislation that is in the approval processes. The former includes the digital TV law, which is said to influence content (an argument that was rejected by the Constitutional Court in response to the challenge to the law that was submitted prior to its passage) and the broadening of the powers of the National Television Council. Among the bills that have yet to be approved, mention was made of the proposal that 20% of radio content be Chilean music, the proposal to protect personal data and the proposal on the right to be forgotten.
Various academics, communications professionals and representatives of institutions, organizations and civil society media submitted a letter to the President of SIP through the President of the Journalists’ Association, Javiera Olivares. In it, they state their concern regarding freedom of expression and the right to information in Chile, but not in the sense of the reasons presented in the report on Chile. Instead, they denounce the high level of concentration of ownership of the media, the oligopoly of the national TV stations, the 45 radio stations in the hands of Spain’s PRISA group, and the duopoly of the print media. They also state that there is a need for “a new legal framework that adequately guarantees freedom of expression and news pluralism.”
In response to the problems with the implementation of the DTV Law and other problematic occurrences around the SIP assembly, some of the member organizations of the Citizenship and Digital TV Panel (Platform for Educational Television, Universidad de Chile, Journalists’ Association, Sidarte) and other organizations with experience or knowledge in the area of the democratization of communication (Conadecus, UCV Media Observatory, unions of media workers, the NGO ECO and others) have been working systematically to create a broad reference document on communication rights in the country.
To this end, they have scheduled an initial programming meeting for November 29. The purpose of the meeting is to invite other social and union organizations, alternative media and universities to join them in preparing this reference document, which is still under construction, based on an open and participatory process. The goal is to begin to demand the fulfillment of the campaign promises of the current administration regarding communications and telecommunications policies. (These include plural openness of the spectrum, expanding TVN’s powers for effective fulfillment of the goals associated with its public mission under the law, public–private financing for TVN, and connectivity.) The initiative is also designed to make visible elements that are not yet adequately addressed by government agencies (such as the digital agenda in general).
- Sociologist with a doctorate in Communication and post-doctoral studies in Government and Public Policy; Assistant Professor with the Universidad de Chile’s Institute for Communication and Image (ICEI)
 For the purposes of this law, pluralism will be understood as respect for social, cultural, ethnic, political, religious, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity diversity, and it shall be the duty of the concessionaires and permit holders of TV services regulated by this law to observe these principles. (Text of Article 1, paragraph 4 of the new law- our translation.)