The most controversial points of Ecuador’s Media Law

The re-election of President Rafael Correa this past February and the majority secured by his Country Alliance Movement party could mean the passage of a media law that has been stalled for the last three years. The bill is inspired by the media law passed in Argentina in 2009, which puts freedom of expression and the practice of journalism in a new context.

According to a report published a few days ago by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), the Correa administration is switching to a new model of regulation and relationship with the media, which the IAPA defines a "gag rule" initiative.

The Communications Law of Ecuador has not yet been approved due to a lack of consensus. Some national and international civil organizations say it threatens freedom of expression. The following are some of the bill’s most controversial aspects:

Frequencies

A point of contention in the bill is its proposal to grant 34% of all frequencies to community media, 33% to public ones, and 33% to for-profit private businesses. The country’s Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) states that as of 2006, 33.3% of the population was indigenous, although the official census estimates it at less than 7%.

Currently, 85.5% of Ecuador’s radio frequencies are private, while 12.9% public and 1.6% are community-based, according to the country’s Superintendency of Telecommunications. In the case of television frequencies, 71% are private and the remaining 29% are public.

The new law would establish that social communication is a public service that should be provided with "accountability and quality," and that community media are those "whose ownership, management and direction resides in districts/communes, communities, countries, nationalities, groups/collectives or non-profit organizations." It also states that these outlets would operate on equal footing with other sectors, while also benefitting from public policies to build and strengthen them, as "a mechanism to promote plurality, diversity, interculturality and plurinationality."

The bill’s strongest critics say that the right conditions do not exist to place 34% of all frequencies in community hands.

(That community media are those) whose ownership, management and direction resides in districts/communes, communities, countries, nationalities, groups/collectives or non-profit organizations

Regulatory Council

The bill proposes the creation of a Regulatory and Communications Development Council, with delegates representing the President, governors, mayors, universities, and media and human rights organizations. The Council would prepare a binding report for the awarding or authorization of frequencies.

Some have criticized this measure, saying it would concentrate power in government hands. The IAPA asserts that the law goes against international conventions signed by Ecuador.

The Council would have the authority to sanction media outlets that refuse to correct information, for example. In case of recidivism, the law would call for fines of up to 10% of the media outlet’s average three month-revenues.

In addition, the Council would regulate or prohibit violent, discriminatory or sexually explicit content, and determine subsequent liability.

Radio and television stations would also be required to broadcast national productions. Radio would be required to devote 50% of its music programming to those productions, while television would have to dedicate 40% of its programming to said content.

Press information

Another point of the proposed law requires that published information be duly verified and establishes the obligation to rectify false or inaccurate information, as well as a person’s right to contest any information he/she considers affects their right to dignity, honor or reputation. Failure to adhere to the new rules would result in penalties.

Another very controversial aspect of the proposed law calls for all journalists to be certified, with the exception of editorialists, opinion writers and journalists who speak indigenous languages. Non-certified journalists would be given six years to comply with said certification.

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Editorial Staff (@portada_online)

Portada is the leading source of news and analysis on the Latin Marketing and Media space. Credibility is our biggest asset: The Portada team is very passionate about producing high-quality independent content that helps drive forward the Latin Marketing and Media space.
El equipo editorial de Portada se apasiona por elaborar contenidos de alta calidad. La credibilidad es nuestro mayor activo. La misión de Portada es ayudar a profesionales de negocios y medios a comprender y alcanzar a consumidores latinoamericanos, del mercado hispano de EE UU y España.

Comments

  1. xavier says:

    Sadly the economics of countries where “trickle down” thinking was heralded for the upper class have suffered the consequences. Ecuador as Venezuela and Bolivia and even Peru have had groups that managed the wealth at the cost of infrastructure and social services for the poor class. Then come politicians that talk of a better future (populists) and they win election after election, thus creating a cycle that becomes hard to break. Correa wins not because of a great politician, but because he is a product of the many years of an agenda that benefited such a small group of Ecuadoreans. So he (as did Chavez) can change laws and get popular support for his deeds. The sad part, is that the uneducated masses that allow him to pass these laws, don’t benefit in the long run because a law like this one, is self serving for the government in charge. Its a sad state of affairs.

  2. Monica says:

    Xavier, you hit the nail on the head!!!
    It’s extremely sad, but will always continue to happen in our LATAM countries and others where the masses have little to zero education levels. It’s why and how communism flourished in Cuba.

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