Reporters Without Borders today welcomed a vote in the senate yesterday approving a new law on community media which will allow for a fair and open attribution of radio and television frequencies.
The House of Representatives gave near unanimous backing to the draft law on 5 June this year.
The law defines community television and radios as “public interest services which are independent of the state and provided by civil non profit-making organisations”. It sets up a non-discretionary system of allocating and renewing frequencies “through open, transparent and public competition”.
The procedure will be the responsibility of a new honorary consultative council, which will be made up of representatives of the state, the media involved, public and private universities and organisations for the defence of free expression.
“We are very pleased about the vote on this law, which will become a reference on the question,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “We very much hope that this new Uruguayan legislation will prove an inspiration to other countries on the continent, where community media are growing rapidly but have unequal opportunities to broadcast,” it added.
“This vote is also the result of a genuine cooperation between the government and civil society,” said Reporters Without Borders. “The law approved by the Congress was drawn up by World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC), the Uruguayan Press Association and the National Workers Confederation (PIT-CNT)”.
11.06.07 - House of representatives votes for an exemplary law on community media
Reporters Without Borders today hailed a draft law regulating community media, which won overwhelming support in the House of Representatives as “an inspiration to the American continent”.
“The most important aspect is undoubtedly the attribution of frequencies on the basis of fairness and transparency”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
It hoped the law, endorsed by deputies in the lower house on 5 June 2007, will now rapidly win the same backing in the Senate and in the same terms.
“This new Uruguayan legislation on community TV and radio should be an inspiration to the American continent which has thousands of media in this category,” it said.
Forty-nine of the 59 deputies present backed the draft law which recognises community media as an entity in its own right within the broadcast sector. It defines community TV and radio as “public interest services independent of the state, provided by not-for-profit civil bodies” designed to cater to citizens’ “communications needs, the right to information and freedom of expression”.
The draft law does not set out any restrictive criteria apart from a requirement to be non profit-making to determine if a media is “community” and permitted to broadcast.
The chief innovation is the awarding of frequencies “through open, transparent and public competition” and not at the discretion of the state as previously. A new honorary consultative council made up of representatives of the state, civil society, and public and private universities will have the right to play a part in the attribution and renewal of frequencies.
The draft law was put before Congress in October 2005 after being drawn up by several organisations including the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the Uruguayan Press Association (APU) and the PIT-CNT federation of labour unions, and was approved by Parliament in its entirety.