Thursday, May 31, 2012

Insight into Bolivia's Media Ownership Laws

Under Morales and through the Bolivian Constitution, Bolivia disallows monopolies and oligopolies. Also, Bolivia's broadcast (radio and television) licenses are divided up in the following format: 1/3 private sector, 1/3 government, and 1/3 social and indigenous groups. In Bolivia, social and indigenous groups have the same political rights as political parties. The purpose of Bolivia's broadcast license laws is to encourage plurality of broadcast media. Alberta for example is the opposite of Bolivia in which oligopolies exist and media ownership concentration is heavily tilted to the private sector, and within the private sector in the case of the daily press and television, there is extreme media ownership concentration. (See the FDA Media Report on Alberta below.)

To learn more about the Bolivia's progressive broadcast laws, the FDA interviewed Mr. Ramiro Orias. The FDA will follow up this interview with an interview a representative from the Bolivian Ministry of Communication.

Mr. Orias, who resides in Bolvia, is a lawyer, Professor of the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the “Universidad Católica Boliviana”, Executive Director of “Fundacion Construir”(BUILD Foundation), and has a Master in International Studies.

Based on Mr. Orias's comments, Bolvia's broadcast model is a work in progress.


FDA: Has Bolivia under Morales become a more democratic country?

Mr. Orias: Tensions between representation and participation, not necessarily contradictory, have meant a change in the quality of democracy. Today, despite temporary deterioration in terms of institutional controls, there is no doubt that both Bolivia's government and the Parliament are more representative and inclusive than ever before, and political participation -measurable in, but not limited to, electoral events - have clearly grown.

FDA: With regard to the Bolivia’s media ownership concentration laws in which broadcast licenses are divided between the private, government, and social and indigenous groups in the following manner:

Privately owned radio and TV usage no more than 33 percent of licenses.
Government radio and TV usage no more than 33 percent licenses.
Social and indigenous groups' usage no more than 33 percent of licenses.

How has this media approach impacted Bolivia’s broadcast news and information?

Mr. Orias: As of today, although there are plans to increase the government radio and television media, there have been no direct actions to revoke licenses or reduce the number of private operators.

FDA: How many private sector groups make up the 33 percent licenses for the privately owned radio and TV?

Mr. Orias: I have no updated information.

FDA: How many social and indigenous groups make up the 33 percent licenses for social and indigenous radio and TV?

Mr. Orias: I have no updated information.

FDA: Does the Bolivian government fund social and indigenous radio and television? If not, how can social and indigenous groups afford to own broadcast licenses and radio and television stations?

Mr. Orias: Yes, there are public plans to support the development of official community radio stations.

FDA: Are the radio and television technology and infrastructure shared amongst the private, government, and social and indigenous sectors? If it is shared, what are the processes for determining airtime between the sectors?

Mr. Orias: Regarding technology there is no balance. Official and private media have greater access, while the community and social groups are more precarious due to shortcomings and economic limitations.

FDA: With the Morales government predominantly indigenous, how is bias to the government avoided by guaranteeing 33 percent of licenses to social and indigenous groups? What percentage of the broadcast licenses is for non- indigenous social groups?

Mr. Orias: The official and the community media have no government restrictions for official propaganda, which is indeed extensive and permanent, primarily on public television.

FDA: How can the Morales government make its division and allocation of broadcast licenses fairer?

Mr. Orias: Developing a more open, transparent and competitive regulation.

FDA Media Study on the 2012 Alberta Election

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