A media reform bill promoted by the President, and based on a proposal written by a coalition of community media, human rights groups, unions and progressive academics, was quickly signed into law today. The bill had passed through the House last month in a highly charged session that saw more than 100 opposition lawmakers walk out in protest, and was recently passed in the Senate by a wide majority.
The President has said that the overhaul will open the country's airwaves to new players, and called the bill an attempt to make radio and TV broadcasts more democratic by capping the number of licenses controlled by media giants.
I know. Here, in the United States? Good question. Well, read on.
The bill also sets limits on the number of media outlets companies can own and calls for a new government-controlled regulatory body responsible for handing out and renewing radio and TV licenses. Telecom cooperatives are allowed to launch their own TV services, but barred from offering pay-TV.
The proposed overhaul had pitted the President against the country's leading media groups. Originally having allowed the telecoms into the pay-TV business in order to appease the opposition, this capitulation to business interests was dropped at the request of the President when it became clear the bill could pass without it.
The reform bill allocates two-thirds of the broadcast spectrum to non-commercial stations, and promotes domestically produced content.
Critics have said the overhaul will increase state influence over the media. A spokesman for the nation's leading media chain said that the company planned a legal challenge if the bill became law. Opposition lawmakers and media groups said they will try to get the next Congress to rescind or revise the bill.
O.k., enough with the fantasy opposite universe. If you've followed this news or any of the links here, you already know that where this happened is Argentina, and the legislation was signed by President Cristina Fernandez. That it is so far-fetched a story to ever happen here is a damned shame, to put it lightly.
We have our reliable and hard-hitting voices of journalistic responsibility here in the U.S., but not on what by any stretch of even a corporate media-washed mind could possibly be referred to as a level playing field. If we want it, we need to seek the truth and sort it out from the pervasive partisan static.
We struggle every day against the tide of media monopoly to get the truth out. We desperately need reform, if not as far-reaching as that just passed in Argentina, then at least with some of the same principles applied there to break the stranglehold of corporate monopolies on broadcast media. It sure would be nice to have more of what PBS offers us so little of.