Employees at Chile’s La Nación ask paper not be shut down, propose legislation for publicly-funded newspaper

  • By
  • August 20, 2013

By Ingrid Bachmann

Despite going against the workers' wishes —who have gone all the way to court to reverse the decision — it appears that the Chilean government will end up getting rid of newspaper La Nación, of which 69% is owned by the state.

While a stock owners' meeting postponed the closing of the company that is in charge of La Nación's assets —including its offices in front of La Moneda, the residence of the country's President—the decision to sell and effectively close the media outlet are still moving forward, reported Radio BíoBío.

Founded in 1917, La Nación has been an exclusively digital publication since December 2010, when authorities canceled the print version citing economic problems.

The union for La Nación's reporters urged in a press release to hold up the sale process and asked President Sebastián Piñera and other stock owners to listen to their proposal to continue the paper's operation.

“We can't envision that a 96-year-old daily, witness to the country's history, be treated the same as a desk, a chair, a computer or a building and be sold to the highest bidder," the statement read, as cited by El Mostrador. 

According to the employees, La Nación is a sustainable and viable daily that can even be financed on its own. Currently, the government "has no reason to let go of the paper (...) will only increase media concentration," said union president Nancy Aranciba. The Chilean press is dominated by two large companies that control the majority of national and local news outlets.

Beyond the political and economical repercussions of the publication's potential sale, the debate over La Nación's future has underscored the discussion about the role and need of a publicly funded newspaper.  As opposed to the case of the state's television network —Televisión Nacional (TVN)— there is no existing rule that guarantees plurality among print media or the importance of having a public service newspaper. TVN, on the other hand, is an autonomous state channel that does not receive public financing and by law finances itself, in an effort to ensure the independence, impartiality and representativeness of its programming.

In this sense, the proposal of mixed financing backed by the La Nación union argues that on a low budget the paper cannot conserve its sense of public service nor its independence, but that today the government has the unique opportunity to ensure the existence of a plural and transparent media outlet similar to TVN.

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.