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PARLIAMENT SUPPORTS DEMOCRATIC COMMUNITY MEDIA LAW

A draft community media law that says television and radio frequencies in Uruguay should be equitably distributed won overwhelming support in the House of Representatives last week, report the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

The draft law states that broadcasting frequencies are to be awarded "through open, transparent and public competition" and not by the state, and should aim to promote plurality and diversity. A new honorary consultative council, made up of state, civil society and public and private university representatives, will get to play a part in granting and renewing frequencies.

A majority of deputies backed the draft law, which recognises community media as an entity in its own right within the broadcast sector. It defines community TV and radio as public interest services independent of the state, run by non-profit civil society organisations and designed to cater to citizens' "communications needs, the right to information and freedom of expression."

The draft law was introduced to Parliament in October 2005, after being drawn up by a coalition that included AMARC, the national journalists' association (Asociación de la Prensa Uruguaya, APU), and the PIT-CNT federation of labour unions. It was approved last week in its entirety, and will now go to the Senate for backing.

AMARC says the draft was approved despite heavy pressure by corporate broadcast media to limit the range of community broadcasters, and to prevent them from obtaining television rights or the right to fundraise.

"This new Uruguayan legislation on community TV and radio should be an inspiration to the American continent, which has thousands of media in this category," RSF says.

Meanwhile, a regional alliance of non-governmental organisations in Latin America, including IFEX members AMARC, the Institute for Press and Society (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS), and PROBIDAD, has voiced its concern over the way broadcasting rights in general are distributed throughout the Americas.

"The allocation, renewal and non-renewal of frequency concessions or broadcasting licences is done in a non-transparent, arbitrary or overly discretionary manner," the alliance said in a formal declaration to the Organization of American States on 2 June.

In the declaration, the alliance condemns the discriminatory decision on the renewal of licenses in Venezuela, in the case of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). The alliance argues that to prevent the concentration of media ownership, the automatic renewal of frequency concessions or broadcasting licenses should be declared unconstitutional, as was recently done in Mexico.

The full text of the draft law (in Spanish) is available at: http://tinyurl.com/2kq5l8

Visit these links:
- AMARC: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/83975/
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22492
(12 June 2007)

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