Uruguay's General Assembly building in Montevideo. Photo: MercoPress.
The Broadcasting Communication Services Law seeks to prevent monopolies and oligopolies in the communications sector by regulating the provision of radio, television and other audiovisual services. Under Article 106, legal bodies that wish to run an audiovisual communications enterprise will have to bide by requirements such as “not being affiliated with or a subsidiary of overseas organizations, not holding agreements, contracts or trading deals that give a dominant position to foreign capital in the conduct of the licensed legal body.”
President José Mujica has repeatedly emphasised that he “does not want Clarín – a media group in Argentina – or Globo – a media conglomerate in Brazil – to become the owners of communications in Uruguay.”
Some media owners have already launched campaigns denouncing the new law as a “gag” threatening freedom of expression. In reality, the new law seeks to guarantee freedom of expression for all men and women and not just for a small part of society. This is apparent throughout the text. For example, articles 14 to 18 and 22 to 24 are aimed at protecting media independence and editorial freedom.
In relation to the work of journalists, chapter V underlines the concept of conscientious objection, by means of which journalists “will have the right, in exercising their profession, to refuse the use of their image, voice or name in content they have produced that has been substantially modified without their consent.”
The law also incorporates a chapter on the rights of children and adolescents, regulations on media concentration, and a requirement that at least 60% of programming on both private and public channels must consist of national promotions or co-productions.
Socialist Senator Daniel Martínez has confirmed that the law was aimed at preventing monopolies and will encourage home-grown Uruguayan audiovisual content to flourish. “This law will ensure pluralism and diversity. It will prevent media concentration and also help to generate home-grown content,” he said.
Consistently ranked at the top of the region by the major media freedom indices for the past decade, Uruguay has created an increasingly supportive environment for media through the passage of reforms targeting community radio, libel laws, and freedom of information, as well as initiatives such as its new Broadcasting Communication Services Law.