The Argentine parliament passed a new media reform law last week that caused alot of controversy throughout the country and is also of interest for national media policy throughout the world.
The stated purpose and provisions of the law are not altogether unfamiliar ones, though in this era of dying newspapers and hyper consolidation of media companies, we don’t see them get put into effect very often. What am I talking about? Let me list the guts of the law, as I’ve understood it from both Argentine and international media channels, blogs, and tweets:
- This new media law is meant to replace the existing one adopted during the military dictatorship of the 70’s and 80’s.
- Two-Thirds of the Radio and TV spectrum will be reserved for non-commercial stations.
- Establishes 7 member commission to oversee licensing, made up of 2 designated by the executive branch, three by congress, and 2 by a Federal body representing provincial governments.
- Requires TV companies to carry channels operated by universities, union, indigenous groups and other non-governmental organizations.
- Requires more frequent licensing approvals
- 70 percent of radio and 60 percent of tv content must be produced in Argentina.
This list is what I’ve compiled and understood as a non-native Spanish speaker who has never set foot in Argentina, though I have observed the political and social situation via the internet for the past decade. No doubt Argentines and critical observers on both sides will have different interpretations and details about the situation.
That said, putting aside the surrounding debate, the stated purpose and many of the provisions of the media law are interesting for anyone concerned about issues such as media consolidation, diversity, representation, non-profit journalism and culture. Such issues have long been debated within institutions like the European Parliament as well as national governments throughout the world. Many of the details within the text of this law were no doubt inspired by several European provisions that seek to nurture a diverse and dynamic public media sector.
On the other side there is concern about how this will be carried out in Argentina. The fear that this will empower the government in a dangerous manner and benefit only those with money who happen to be close to the executive branch. Others simply believe that the market should determine what happens to Argentine media, where for example the media corporation Clarin owns 44% of the media market share (more than 250 newspapers, radio stations, tv channels, cable stations). In their eyes this law is not only dangerous but it would severely damage their very successful and prestigious communication business.
While continuing to read and follow this issue, I will get in touch with some interesting people on the ground in Argentina who could join me for a podcast in an effort to learn more about what is happening with the world of media in that country.