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Unmasking Peru's "owners of the news"

High levels of revenue and ownership concentration in the media sector pose a threat to freedom of information in Peru. Concentration is also exceptionally high in terms of circulation and audience in the print and digital media sectors.

These are some of the main findings published today in Lima of the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM), a joint research and advocacy project carried out in Peru by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and OjoPúblico, an investigative digital media outlet. The international project led by RSF investigates media ownership structures and the news media's legal environment and has been carried out in a number of countries in America, Europe and Asia since 2015.

MOM Peru has revealed a high degree of media ownership concentration as well as a lack of regulation by the state, and confirms the dominant position of the El Comercio Group. The detailed results of the study, developed between September and November 2016 in Lima, are now available to the public at www.monitoreodemedios.pe in Spanish and English.

"Our investigation confirms El Comercio Group's unparalleled dominance in the media market, leaving far behind ATV and Latina as the second and third most powerful media groups in the country,” said OjoPúblico's executive director Oscar Castilla. “El Comercio dominates the circulation of national newspapers, wields considerable power in digital media, has a large reach in the television sector and controls a considerable portion of the overall media sector's advertising revenues."

"Even though no direct political control over the media is discernible in Peru, there is a danger to media pluralism stemming from a regulatory vacuum ", added RSF Germany's executive director Christian Mihr.

High concentration in various media sectors

The MOM investigation analyzed the 40 media outlets with the largest audience numbers in Peru – ten each of radio stations, Internet news portals, TV channels and newspapers. Out of these 40, 16 belong to the El Comercio Group, which concentrates 80% of the estimated circulation of newspapers and 78% of the market readership. Its weight on the Internet is also unparalleled: According to the MOM analysis, it concentrates 68% of the estimated total audience of online news media.

El Comercio also received 60% of the total revenue earned by the eight most important private media groups. The estimated combined revenue of the three major groups El Comercio, ATV and Latina accounted for 84% of the total market volume. ”The dangerously dominating market position of El Comercio Group exceeds everything we have seen around the world so far and poses a major threat to media pluralism.” said RSF's Christian Mihr.

The MOM investigation also found a high degree of concentration in television, radio and internet sectors.

In free TV, much of the audience is concentrated on the channels controlled by the three largest groups in Peru: América Televisión, Latina and ATV. The situation of media pluralism in Peru appears even more alarming given the commercial advertising alliances between the two most important channels, America and ATV, and between Latina and Panamericana Television, respectively. The four groups account for a combined 57% of the television audience as measured by Kantar Ibope Media in 2015.

A similar scenario is found in the radio broadcast sector. The ten most important radio stations in the country are in the hands of four groups (RPP Group, CRP, Universal Corporation and Panamericana de Radios). Seven of them belong to just two groups - GrupoRPP and CRP.

In digital media, investigation also showed that 90% of advertising revenue are concentrated in the top 10 digital media, seven of them belonging to El Comercio.

Media ownership is in the hands of families

Of the ten media groups investigated by MOM Peru, six are in the hands of families. Apart from the personal business activities of their individual owners, almost all of these groups concentrate their investments virtually exclusively in the communications sector.

The exception is El Comercio Group, the economically strongest and most diversified of all, which has a presence in such diverse sectors as education, real estate, printing and entertainment in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.

Unlike in other countries investigated by the MOM project worldwide, media outlets in Peru were not found to be affiliated to any political parties on the national level. However, the data gathered show that major shareholders, board members, senior management executives as well as journalists – especially in the El Comercio, Latina and ATV groups – have widespread business ties across the country.

Although the Peruvian constitution prohibits monopolies in the media sector, there is little regulation to define the details of this principle and even less effort to implement the constitution's provisions.

Transparency issues and the impact of audience measurement

One of the biggest problems of the MOM project's investigation in Peru was the lack of transparency concerning the ownership of some media outlets. In the case of Latina, the majority shareholder of which is an investment fund called Enfoca, the exact ownership details, although formally declared on the Lima Stock Exchange, are in practice concealed by an offshore corporation registered on the Cayman Islands that serves as the parent company. In the case of ATV and its subsidiaries, a large number of companies conceal the links with its headquarters in Miami, called Albavisión.

Additionally, the system of audience measurement in Peru called the investigator's attention: Because for each sector (television, radio, internet, print) there is a monopoly for measuring media consumption. Each of the market research companies concerned publishes audience data related only to media outlets of its respective clients. “This means that there is no transparency about the real cross-sector media consumption in all four sectors.” said MOM Peru's project manager Nina Ludewig. “Considering that audience data are critical for the decisions of private advertisers as well as for state advertising, this lack of information is even more critical. The lack of market transparency therefore has a negative impact on the survivability of media outlets and thus on media pluralism."

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OjoPúblico is an investigative digital media outlet based in Lima that focuses its investigations on power groups in the national and international economy, as well as on networks of organized crime, impacts of extractive industries and human rights issues.

Media Ownership Monitor is a global project launched by the international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders. It has been or is being carried out in eight countries worldwide, including Turkey, Tunisia, Colombia and Cambodia. By applying a generic methodology for all countries, it looks at ownership and media concentration of the most relevant audio-visual, print and online outlets, which are selected based on audience share. The project is funded by the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).

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