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Media and Poverty: a Latin American Perspective


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This presentation analyses the behaviour of mass media and independent media in Latin America, in respect to poverty and development policies.

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Media and Poverty: a Latin American Perspective

  1. 1. Media and Poverty: a Latin American perspective Media, Freedom and Poverty Bellagio, October 2003 Alfonso Gumucio Dagron
  2. 2. “ Tele-journals are very participatory, they provide a news item and you have to imagine the truth”
  3. 3. Media in Latin America <ul><li>Print media </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial national dailies & regional conglomerates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent dailies & weeklies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National state journals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Radio </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial national networks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent local radio stations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Community radio, rural & urban </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evangelic radio networks - confessional </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Television </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial national TV networks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Private local TV stations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial cable service providers - Internet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University television stations (declined or commercialized) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>News agencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IPS only independent, development oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ALASEI failed to compete with AP, UPI </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Influential Newspapers
  5. 5. Commercial & public media <ul><li>Print media since nations became independent (1809-1825) - mix of adds & political views </li></ul><ul><li>Radio and -specially- TV controlled by governments until 70’s & 80’s </li></ul><ul><li>University television channels, an alternative cultural option (Chile, Bolivia, Colombia) </li></ul><ul><li>Weakening of public channels through less advertising from corporate sector (80’s) </li></ul><ul><li>Less diversity in last twenty years, though apparently more options (quantity vs. quality) </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial media as watchdog of governments, not of corporations </li></ul><ul><li>Transnational corporate holdings (Televisa US) </li></ul><ul><li>Affiliation top powerful Interamerican Press Society (SIP) and AIR - clubs of owners </li></ul>
  6. 6. Content & outreach <ul><li>Printed press in general has more diversity of content but reaches fewer people </li></ul><ul><li>Television is very dependant on foreign canned material or cloning - cable has no local content </li></ul><ul><li>International TV news through CNN eyes </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial radio has more coverage & power but contents not relevant to rural population </li></ul><ul><li>Community radio - thousands (2,000 registered in Peru) - 6,000 total </li></ul><ul><li>Regional networks: ALER, AMARC </li></ul><ul><li>National networks: RECORRA, CNR, ERBOL, ARCA, other… </li></ul><ul><li>Internet alternatives (Indymedia) have very limited reach </li></ul>
  7. 7. Multimedia conglomerates <ul><li>O Globo (Brazil) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Journals, television, radio </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Televisa (Mexico) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Television </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cadena Caracol (Colombia) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Radio network, television </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Grupo Clarin (Argentina) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Journal, cable TV </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Grupo Cisneros (Venezuela) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TV, journals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most of above are ISP </li></ul>
  8. 8. Financial = political control <ul><li>El Mercurio (Chile) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Received funds from CIA against Allende (1973) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Excelsior (Mexico) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Coup” by President Echeverría (1968) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>La Razón (Bolivia) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bought by Grupo Prisa of Spain (1999) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Siglo XXI (Guatemala) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bought by Corporación de Noticias of Costa Rica </li></ul></ul><ul><li>TV networks America & Panamericana (Peru) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Receiving cash from Fujimori Government as seen in “vladivideos” (Montesinos) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Television and journals (Venezuela) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Orchestrated coup against Chavez </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Guatemala - example <ul><li>Mid-size country in Central America </li></ul><ul><li>Four TV channels (out of five) and about 30 commercial radio stations owned by one business man (lives in Miami) </li></ul><ul><li>Only one -recent- TV channel owned by Prensa Libre group - strategy for elections </li></ul><ul><li>Only one independent newspaper “El Periodico” - support by Soros Foundation </li></ul><ul><li>80 community radio stations labelled as “pirate” - mostly in Maya communities </li></ul><ul><li>Many evangelic sects have radio stations </li></ul>
  10. 10. Mass media content deficit <ul><li>Preference for political news and entertainment over poverty & social issues </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of professional skills to report on development issues </li></ul><ul><li>Urban & capital city centred - bias </li></ul><ul><li>Does not favour space for dialogue between citizens and government institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate freedom rather than freedom of expression for journalists & communities </li></ul><ul><li>Market dependant strategies of media conglomerates leave the poorest areas in each country without information channels </li></ul><ul><li>The logic of profit prevents commitment with democratisation process </li></ul>
  11. 11. Political manipulation <ul><li>Picture of President Chávez of Venezuela </li></ul><ul><li>September 2003 </li></ul>
  12. 12. Who, when, where… <ul><li>The classic journalist checklist: what, who, where, when… seems irrelevant today </li></ul><ul><li>The real questions: </li></ul><ul><li>What agenda dominates information flows? </li></ul><ul><li>Who owns the media & who tells the stories? </li></ul><ul><li>Where resides the actual power of decision-making? </li></ul><ul><li>Which are the limits for journalists to report freely? </li></ul><ul><li>When will mass media support people to better negotiate their demands for development and freedom of expression? </li></ul>
  13. 13. The journalist <ul><li>No more a Quixote with a typewriter under the arm and integrity </li></ul><ul><li>Trapped in spider web of self-censorship </li></ul><ul><li>Little room allowed by media owners to inform & debate poverty issues </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult challenge behaving ethical & critical within commercial media </li></ul><ul><li>Corruption no longer affects isolated cases - brown envelopes multiply </li></ul><ul><li>Political repression & random violence </li></ul><ul><li>Caught in the middle of compromises between governments & media owners </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Those who attempted to take over the fortress by assault remained trapped inside. </li></ul><ul><li>Jean Luc Godard, French filmmaker </li></ul>
  15. 15. Undermining general context <ul><li>Globalisation tidal wave diminished the role of Nation States & public services </li></ul><ul><li>National industry & agriculture demolished through unfair trade rules & subsidies </li></ul><ul><li>Poorest communities left out of new economic landscape - increased poverty in the region </li></ul><ul><li>Privatisation of media tends to uniform information & cultural contents, based on alien models </li></ul><ul><li>“ The best media policy is no policy” </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of resources to make voices of the poor heard </li></ul><ul><li>Schools of journalism turn back to development </li></ul><ul><li>WSIS patrons closing ears to civil society & third world governments - as happened in WTO Cancun </li></ul>
  16. 16. Global changes affect L.A. <ul><li>Information is no longer part of the cultural sphere, but the centre of finance, trade & economy </li></ul><ul><li>Concentration of media corporations at global, regional and national levels </li></ul><ul><li>The process of production & distribution of information flows has become a large scale industry </li></ul><ul><li>Information markets are diversified (mass dissemination of standard products) and specialised (restricted distribution) </li></ul><ul><li>Development & poverty not part of the agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Convergence of technologies and digital networking thanks to microchip innovations is an opportunity but not silver bullet </li></ul>
  17. 17. ICTs divide & democracy <ul><li>More questions than answers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How are access needs met in communities? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are community networks able to bridge the digital divide? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How are community networks contributing to economic development? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are community networks contributing to social inclusion? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What has been the effect of community participation through ICTs? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are ICT public access facilities meeting the needs of the poor or the well-off? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How much is driven by the expansion of market for hardware & software companies? </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Twenty (lost) years <ul><li>During the past twenty years, the development of media and information technologies has not only been unable to prevent the growth of poverty and inequity, but has also widened the social and economic divide. </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinadora Nacional de Radio - CNR (Peru) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Distinct processes <ul><li>Information as discourse: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The unilateral flow of messages from an institutional transmitter to a mass-receiver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(social reproduction) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Communication as dialogue: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The symmetric process of exchange between people that are both receivers and transmitters of messages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(social change) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. What kind of “access”? <ul><li>Access to information is not sufficient </li></ul><ul><li>Existing information is irrelevant to people development needs </li></ul><ul><li>Participation is needed to generate communication </li></ul>
  21. 21. The poor can read? <ul><li>Access: </li></ul><ul><li>Reach of printed media is limited to few urban areas </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial radio & television have wider coverage but contents alien to development & poverty issues </li></ul><ul><li>The poor have very few information sources they can trust </li></ul><ul><li>Credibility of commercial mass media has never been lower </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrations against media houses (Argentina, Venezuela) </li></ul>
  22. 22. The poor can talk? <ul><li>Participation: </li></ul><ul><li>Voices of the poor have seldom possibility of expressing through commercial mass media </li></ul><ul><li>Mass media distorts or hides reports on civil society movements </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics at its lowest: journalists corrupted by corporate or government sources, scandals </li></ul><ul><li>Honest journalists censored by their media houses - resigning </li></ul><ul><li>Private interests block news on communities denouncing environment degradation, corporate corruption, etc </li></ul>
  23. 23. The two ethics <ul><li>Individual freedom vs. social justice </li></ul><ul><li>Protestant ethic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freedom precedes justice </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Christian ethic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Justice precedes freedom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Antonio Pasquali) </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Independent media
  25. 25. Call for enabling environment <ul><li>Political, administrative & budget decentralisation process to continue from Government to communities </li></ul><ul><li>More power to municipalities & communities (Colombia, Bolivia) - OTBs as citizens’ watch </li></ul><ul><li>Greater awareness on development potential of community media needed in governments </li></ul><ul><li>Need of policies to support & promote independent & community media at regional, national, and transnational levels </li></ul><ul><li>Privatisation of electro-magnetic spectrum to be reviewed - airwaves are a natural resource </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition of educational & cultural value of citizens’ media </li></ul>
  26. 26. Dichotomies <ul><li>A communication system should articulate and/or resolve dichotomies: </li></ul><ul><li>Diffusion vs. reception </li></ul><ul><li>Impersonal vs. interpersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Public vs. private </li></ul><ul><li>Content vs. infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Social justice vs. individual freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Access vs. ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Local vs. national </li></ul><ul><li>Urban vs. rural </li></ul><ul><li>National vs. international </li></ul><ul><li>(based on José Luis Exeni categories) </li></ul>
  27. 27. Positive prospects? <ul><li>Strengthening of civil society movements </li></ul><ul><li>Growth of independent & community media in poorest nations </li></ul><ul><li>New citizens’ watch organisations keep an eye on government & corporate media </li></ul><ul><li>The debate on public communication policies returns to the agenda - participatory approach </li></ul><ul><li>Strengthening demands on rights to freedom of information and freedom of expression </li></ul><ul><li>Consciousness about empowering communication options for the people, not just information </li></ul><ul><li>More debate on contents, not just technology </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in international landscape? (WB supporting community radio) </li></ul>
  28. 28. Three approaches <ul><li>Development of community, participatory & independent media </li></ul><ul><li>Strengthen citizens’ watchdog organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Design national policies through participation of civil society </li></ul>
  29. 29. 1. Community media <ul><li>Ownership of local media by communities </li></ul><ul><li>Provide a vital alternative to the profit-oriented agendas of corporate media </li></ul><ul><li>Driven by social objectives, not profit </li></ul><ul><li>Empower people rather than treat them as passive consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Local knowledge rather than imposed solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Committed to human rights, social justice, environment and sustainable development </li></ul><ul><li>Provide the means for cultural expression, community discussion, and debate </li></ul><ul><li>Cost-effective means of reaching and connecting the poorest communities </li></ul><ul><li>Creating a strong, socially responsible and participating civil society </li></ul>
  30. 30. 2. Citizens watch <ul><li>The “veeduría” ciudadana (Peru): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Watches media contribution to democracy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Denounce media serving powerful political and economic groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring degeneration of entertainment and information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate on human values & rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote dialogue and debate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss media role in society, culture & ethics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Propose new media legislation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conduct research & opinion surveys on media </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Readers defender” (Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within daily journals, internal watchdog </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics of journalists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accuracy of information - settle claims </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. 3. National policies <ul><li>Consensual national policies, legislation and communication strategies for poverty reduction: </li></ul><ul><li>Ownership of agenda by developing countries </li></ul><ul><li>Localise global issues and globalise local issues </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia and multisectoral response to poverty </li></ul><ul><li>Establish responsibilities of commercial media in national development & attention to the poor </li></ul><ul><li>Legitimate participation & vigilance from civil society organisations to ensure transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Promote respect for cultural identities and inter-cultural negotiation </li></ul><ul><li>Establish true communication channels, not only information infrastructure </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>People are finding new and more direct ways to get involved in public life and decision-making –marking a shift from representative democracy to what is often called participatory democracy. </li></ul><ul><li>Kumi Naidoo </li></ul>