Ecuadorian government to appropriate 55 radio and TV stations under country’s communications law

A total of 55 radio and television frequencies will be appropriated by the Ecuadorian government for failing to comply with the country's new communications law, said telecommunications minister Jaime Guerrero during a Sep. 20 press conference, news portal Infobae reported.

One of the law's articles, heralded by President Rafael Correa, stipulates that broadcasting companies with frequency usage contracts had to present a sworn declaration in which they certified that they have been employing the frequency for the last two years, the portal said.

Guerrero said that after receiving 900 sworn declarations his office concluded that 55 stations, four operating on open television, had failed to comply with the requirement, newspaper El Universo said. Guerrero added that the appropriation of the frequencies will be conducted by the Communication Regulation Council (Cordicom) after the due process. The names of the affected stations will be announced in the following weeks, El Universo said.

According to the new law, all frequencies appropriated by the state must be redistributed. Currently there are 1,700 requests for new frequencies, newspaper El Comercio reported. For Cordicom's president, Patricio Barriga, this is the first step to democratize broadcasts in the country and eliminate media concentration in the radio-electric spectrum, El Comercio and El Universo reported.

"This concentration has not favored democracy," Barriga said according to El Universo. "In fact, this concentration has dominated audiences with a discourse interested in the defense of corporations and indifferent to people's interests, it has even concentrated advertising billings, and the gravest thing of all is that it has established a single information agency that defends the aforementioned interests."

Two days after Barriga's comments, Ecuadorian authorities closed and seized the equipment of Radio Centro de Guayaquil, saying that the station operated illegally. Radio Centro was not considered an opposition station but was critical of the government.

Ecuador's Organic Communications Law was approved on June 25 and has sparked controversy because of its implications for freedom of the press and expression in the country. Currently the Supreme Court is going over a lawsuit from a group of 60 persons, among them politicians and journalists, who say the law is unconstitutional.

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.