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In what the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) calls a "groundbreaking move for freedom of expression in Latin America," the Uruguayan Senate approved a Community Broadcasting Bill that recognises community broadcasting in its own right and says television and radio frequencies should be more equitably distributed.

The bill acknowledges the importance of this "third" broadcasting sector alongside the state and private sectors, and stipulates that one third of the AM and FM radio airwaves and television broadband will be reserved for community-based media outlets, which AMARC says ensures greater diversity of media ownership.

A new council, made up of government, media, university and free expression representatives, will play a part in granting and renewing frequencies and ensuring that the government does not use frequency allocation to indirectly censor broadcasts.

According to AMARC, the bill does not impose limits on the geographical range and signal strength of community media outlets, unlike laws in Brazil and Chile. Instead, the bill says the range of coverage will depend on the outlet's purpose and the audience it is trying to reach.

Community broadcasters will also have the right to secure financing through donations, advertising and government grants.

AMARC and other free expression organisations, including IFEX members ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), have been closely following this development as it sets a crucial precedent for the region. AMARC was also involved in drafting the bill. "This is the first time that transparent and non-discriminatory processes for the allocation of radio and television frequencies have been explicitly laid out in Uruguayan legislation," says AMARC.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives to approve some amendments made by the Senate. According to government officials, the law will be passed by the end of the year.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- "IFEX Communiqué" on passage of bill in House of Representatives:
(27 November 2007)

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