MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay must take steps to prevent foreign conglomerates from dominating information in the country, President Jose Mujica said on Tuesday as the Senate was poised to pass a bill aimed at preventing concentration of media ownership.
The ruling leftist Frente Amplio coalition is seeking to establish a new regulatory framework for radio, television and other audiovisual media.
“It seems that any attempt to regulate something is a mortal sin,” Mujica said. “I think exactly the opposite. Sharks are circling around and, if we do not regulate, they will end up swallowing us.”
The families who now own licenses to operate media in Uruguay “are not eternal, and I do know what the heirs do,” Mujica said. “It is good to have freedom of the press, what we do not need is to have a monopoly.”
“The worst threat is that someone comes from outside and ends up owning (the media),” the president said. “I do not want (Argentine media conglomerate) Clarin, or (Brazil’s) Globo, or (Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos) Slim to become the owners of communications in Uruguay.”
Article 106 of the bill before the Senate requires that entities applying for license to operate audiovisual media “should not be affiliates or subsidiaries of foreign companies, and should not execute acts, contracts or property deals allowing foreign capital a dominant position over the licensee.”
Article 51, meanwhile, speaks of a “duty of the state to implement proper measures to prevent or limit the existence and formation of monopolies and oligopolies in audiovisual communication services, and to establish mechanisms for their control.”
After its expected passage in the Senate, the Media Act will return to the lower house for final approval on Dec. 22.