The Uruguayan government submitted to Parliament on Tuesday, May 22 a bill that would set new telecommunication rules in the country, reported the newspaper El País. The Audiovisual Communication Services Law-- also known as the Media Law --would establish "clear rules to create a harmonious system of audiovisual media outlets, with fair and balanced competition between the operators."
With 13 chapters and 183 articles, the bill intends to update the legislation regarding the audiovisual spectrum in Uruguay, "particularly in what refers to the advances in the digitalization of telecommunications, and transcend the current judicial framework, which needs to be updated,” added El Diario. The complete bill can be read here (via Scribd).
The bill would establish that media companies can only own a maximum of three audiovisual outlets and only one radio frequency (AM or FM). It would also bar audiovisual companies from offering telephone services. The owners of television stations cannot own more that six licenses in all of Uruguay and a maximum of three in the capital, Montevideo.
The bill also seeks to set rules on media content production. If approved, the bill will establish that at least 60 percent of the programming on each channel must be produced or co-produced in the country, not including commercials and self-promotion. And, from this nationally produced programming, 30 percent must be made by independent makers. The newspaper El Observador made a compilation of the main changes proposed by the bill regarding programming restrictions for minors and other contents.
One of the criticisms the bill has received was the lack of an open public discussion before finalizing it. According to website La Red 21, Alvaro Delgado, a congressman with the National Front party, said it would have been necessary to form "a multiparty table discussion of the topic before writing the bill, like in other occasions. A better consensus could have been made that way."
On Friday, May 17, Uruguayan President José Mujica, said that the project would not be a "gag law" and that there wouldn't be content regulation, reported Espectador.com. "[The project] tries to establish clear and precise rights and obligations, transparent procedures and be respectful of the due process," Mujica said.
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.