Ecuadorian government concentrates media, spends millions in state advertising, report says

The government of President Rafael Correa currently holds 21 different media properties that include 14 impounded outlets, three public ones and four at the state level, according to the recent report "How the news we receive is filtered" conducted by the NGO Fundamedios.

The report analyzes the relationship of the Ecuadorian government with the media in the country, the effects of media concentration by a left-leaning state and the unbalanced distribution of public advertising.

As a starting point, the three-part report analyzes the current Ecuadorian situation using Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's book "Manufacturing Consent," which proposes the existence of five filters of communication. Among the filters is the concentration of media property in the hands of a few people or corporations and media dependency on advertising as their primary source of income.

According to this analysis, these filters allow the state to create an informative status quo, which Chomsky calls the "manufacturing of consent."

Fundamedios claims that between January and September of this year, the Ecuadorian government's broadcasts have accumulated 9,613 minutes on open frequencies. That number, on top of the advertising spots of other state agencies, adds up to a total of 21,162 minutes on the air.

Despite having created an anti-monopoly law to avoid all "concentration of capital and interest in the hands of private owners" (which according to the ruling party would avoid "inequality and the abuse of market power"), according to the report, the law does not address the possible concentration of key media outlets by the state nor does it provide for the possibility that the state could be run like a corporation interested in profit and promote its image as a "brand." In the Ecuadorian case, the state "appropriates a significant part of its budget in self-advertising," Fundamedios said.

The report also highlighted the application of Ecuador's controversial Communications Law, which the report said was approved without sufficient academic and contextual research. The opinions that composed the debate were "whimsical," Fundamedios said.

The report also criticized the manner in which the government has recently approved state advertising. It concludes that "the exorbitant spending on advertising not only influences media publications and stifles criticism, but also  creates a circle of concentrated wealth in groups that are open or sympathetic to those in power."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.