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Regional Movements for Media Reform

Silvio Waisbord's picture

Much has been said lately about the prospects for global institutions to promote media democracy and good governance. The jury is still out, however. How can a diversity of trasnational actors, including intergovernment bodies, donors, UN agencies, civic groups and business, be effective? Are all actors equally positioned? If national governments retain power over key decisions shaping media environments, how do global actors manage to influence opportunities for media pluralism and participation?

Latin America offers an interesting petri dish to examine the germination of regional movements promoting media pluralism. One worth watching closely in the next years is the community media movement crystallized in the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. In recent years, the movement has been active in debates about media reform in Argentina, Mexico and Peru. Last year, it played a key role in the passing of the community media law in Uruguay. The movement has recently produced a document identifying 14 principles of community media to inform media policies in the region. The principles were recently presented to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights at the Organization of American States with the hope that the institution will promote a broad notion of freedom of expression. This would be a major boon considering the persistent deficit of plural media systems and renewed attention on media reform in the last decade in the region.

Media reform has been perennially postponed due to political sensitivities and high interests at stake. Too often, media policies have been corralled by governments and powerful business, as if media matters only concerned high politics and commerce. Combined actions of inter-government organizations and civic groups at the regional level may hopefully expand the boundaries of the debate and, thus, make public interests central to future changes in media legislation. This would be a great opportunity to assess the reach of transnational actors to affect domestic media policies, an area that governments historically saw as their exclusive power pad.

Photo Credit: Flickr user erlin1