Journalists call for TV Blackout

24 Aug

Chile’s Association of Journalists calls on viewers to switch of the TV at 9 o’clock, the traditional news hour.

The blackout is a protest against concentration of a media ownership and a demand for a constitutional guarantee for the right to information. It comes amidst nation wide union strikes that began today.

“Our intention is that the demands of the journalists are part of a movement that could extend democracy in Chile. To achieve this objective it is essential to grow pluralism, through the incentive of the creation of new means of communication,” said the president of the association, Marcelo Castillo, in a press statement.

Photo provided by Blackout Medíatico por mi Derecho a la Información / Facebook.

Freedom of the Press in Chile

Reporters Without Borders puts Chile at 33rd in the world rankings of media freedom. The RWB report on Chile for 2010 acknowledges that “the Chilean media are exposed to fewer security problems than other countries in the region.”

However it goes on to say that “the Chilean media suffer from an extraordinary concentration of ownership, in fact, most of them are owned by just two companies.” In an interview with CNN Marcelo Castillo put the percentage of the print media owned by these conglomerates – El Mercurio and Copesa (La Tercera) – at 90%.

Through a system established during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, these two companies are given state subsidies of $5 million per year.

According to the report “half a dozen opposition magazines. . . that were tolerated during the latter years of the dictatorship have all had to close for lack of funding and assistance.”

Meanwhile, 60% of the countries radio stations are owned by Spanish media conglomerate Prisa.

The report likens President Sebastian Piñera to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying that Mr. Piñera “has no interest in any changes because of his links with the mainstream media.”

Association journalists have vowed to use alternative outlets, such as social media to report the strikes today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Sitio Quiltro is expecting a sharp spike in hits as people seek alternative news sources.

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2 Responses to “Journalists call for TV Blackout”

  1. Charles Myhill August 24, 2011 at 20:03 #

    Thought provoking stuff. I hadn’t known the Chilean government subsidies the country’s major newspapers. In Australia, of course, the ABC, which is funded entirely by taxpayers, is the country’s premier news network. To my mind, it is the best. There is certainly no doubt the ABC is bloody-mindedly independent. Radio National, for instance, is a national treasure.

    I would like to see, given the state of print media everywhere else in the world, a nationally circulating newspaper in the country that is funded by taxpayers. The proviso is that its independence be entrenched in law and that it operates absolutely impartially. No pushing the government agenda, whether it be one of the left or right..

    • Joe Hinchliffe August 24, 2011 at 21:49 #

      Yes its a good point. Were it not for state subsidies in Australia all that would be left in the media landscape, would be Murdoch’s empire (and I guess Fairfax to a lesser degree) and we’ve seen what that’s lead to…
      I agree that most of the worlds leading news networks are government funded – the BBC in Britian, ABC and SBS in Australia, Al Jazeera in Qatar.
      The problem in Chile is the government funded conglomerates do not have an entrenched culture of independence. Actually it is completely the opposite. They have a history or promoting the interests of the countries oligarchy. During the Copa America football tournament Canal 13 did not show footage of sections of the crowd were people had pro-student banners, even though this footage was aired in other countries. During the current protests they have consistently estimated student numbers to be far lower than student organizers, non-government funded organizations and independent journalists. This are just two examples I’ve been aware of in my time here, I’m sure a Chilean could rattle of a bunch more…
      This concentration of business interests – much of which was set in place under the dictatorship – goes to the heart of a lot of the discontent that has manifested itself into the movement sweeping the country.
      So yes I would like to see an independent government funded media organization as well.
      The good news is that there is a growing culture of alternative media here, satirical magazines, and online activism, but of course none of them have the scope or resources to compete with the big guys.
      Thanks Charles!

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