Community radio stations say new communications law in Guatemala tunes them out

Reporters Without Borders (RSF in French) criticized Guatemala's General Telecommunications Law, which allows for the nearly automatic renewal of radio and television frequencies for 25 years to those who already leased them.

"A measure like this leaves no room for community television and, above all, radio operations that were waiting to be recognized and face opposition to their applications, not enough available frequencies," the group stated on Dec. 1. RSF reiterated that the measure mostly affects the indigenous Maya and Xinkas communities.

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) in Guatemala rejected the bill in a press release, highlighting their concern over the advance of the Congressional Communications Commission and the Superintendency of Telecommunications against bill 4087, which deals with indigenous access to media. AMARC Guatemala asked, "Why do they tell us, the indigenous folks, that there are no available frequencies when, in actuality, they are considering renewing the leases already awarded to commercial radio? Why does our government prefer that there are a huge quantity of commercial radio frequencies instead of equitably distributing the dial so that everyone can hear the voices of our people?"

RSF said that the shortage or poor enforcement of a community media law would produce an excessive concentration of media ownership, including monopolies. The group recommended adopting bill 4087 in its full intention without additional revisions and a fair distribution of the air waves.