Mapping the Salvadoran media
Democratizing the mass media is indispensable to democratizing a society.
In El Salvador, the powerful economic groups’ media monopoly hinders democracy. They are accumulation media rather than communication media,
and they are building an anti-democratic hegemony.
Grassroots sectors need to take on the struggle
for grassroots media with which to build a fairer society.
An April 1999 study by the Veritas Project to evaluate the media’s participation in that year’s presidential campaign in El Salvador concluded that “the media are part of an economic and political system that allows and even encourages disinformation.” The study added that “they lack credibility because they reflect the owners’ economic interests.” It highlighted “an interrelation among political leaders; the government; and media owners, editors and managers; while employees, journalists and society in general resonate in their own interactions.”
All that remains is to add the link between the media as businesses and the business associations. This is very well illustrated in the political career of Elías Antonio Saca, who quickly rose from the presidency of the Salvadoran Association of Radio Broadcasters (ASDER, 1997-2001) to the presidency of the Executive Council of the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP, 2001-2003), and from there to the presidency of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party and finally the presidency of El Salvador (2004-2009).
A portrait of hegemonyThese realities reflect the full picture of Antonio Gramsci’s definition of “hegemony”: capitalist domination not only through the relationship of labor exploitation and the State’s repressive apparatus, but also through the universalizing of bourgeois ideology and culture and the acceptance by all social classes, including the oppressed ones, of the bourgeoisie’s values, beliefs, common sense and vision of the world as a reference point for understanding and building attitudes and actions.
The building of this hegemony is the work of a group of “intellectuals” loyal to the dominant class’ project and dedicated to turning its ideology into “common sense.” Gramsci’s mapping includes as lead actors all protagonists of the superstructure outside the state sphere, which are mainly the churches, the private education system and the media. Bearing this in mind, no project of change in El Salvador can avoid upsetting the power built within the communication sphere.
The print media is inNewspapers are El Salvador’s oldest media. The first Salvadoran newspaper was the Semanario Político Mercantil (Political Mercantile Weekly). It was first published in 1824 and its name bears testimony to its social role. From last century to the present day, two families have dominated the print media market: the Dutríz family owns La Prensa Gráfica, the country’s biggest-selling newspaper, as well as El Heraldo de Oriente and the sports paper El Gráfico; while the Altamiranos own El Diario de Hoy, MÁS and El Diario de Oriente.
the hands of two families
The Altamirano family has extensive cotton and coffee lands and moves within the bloc of large landowners espousing the country’s most conservative positions. In the internal divisions that characterized ARENA from the 2006 electoral campaign to the 2008-2009 electoral one, the Altamiranos were part of the “Torogoces” group, along with other big farmers and agro-industrialists.
The Dutríz family has more diversified capital. It dominates the print media production chain with secondary firms: Gráficos y Textos, Impresora La Unión, Compañía General de Impresiones, Telecom-Publicar, Inversiones en Cable, Comunicación Persuasiva and Radio Noticias. It also has other investments in diverse companies, such as Comercio Montelimar, Sagrera Cabrera Hermanos, San Lucar, Metales y Estructuras DIMCO, Arrendadora General, Sherwin Williams de C.A, Inversiones Familiares, Cooperativa de Caficultores de San José de la Majada, Monte Real, Monte Nevado Comercial, Bufete J. Zaldívar y Asociados and Zaldívar Molina.
It is this business diversity that has led many analysts to describe La Prensa Gráfica as being “more politically moderate.”
In the above-mentioned divisions in ARENA, various figures on La Prensa Gráfica’s payroll, including former director Cecilia Gallardo de Cano, were in the “Apóstoles” group, along with former Foreign Affairs Minister María Eugenia Brizuela and intellectuals like FUSADES president Antonio Cabrales. This sector was led by industrialist and banker Roberto Murray Meza.
In third place among print media owners is the Borja Nathan family. In 1971, it owned 5,904 hectares of land and eight years later had investments registered in 33 companies. At that time one of the strongest coffee-producing families, it now also owns El Ángel sugar refinery and the daily El Mundo, which was moderately right wing during the armed conflict, but shifted into the extreme rightwing camp in the last decade under the editorial pen of Álvaro Cruz Rojas.
The Co Latino daily, owned by a workers’ cooperative, is the only daily newspaper that represents grassroots interests. But it has a minimum circulation in a country where only 7.7% of the population informs itself through the written press.
Radio is dominated by The first Salvadoran radio station started broadcasting in 1926. It was called A.Q.M., the initials of then-President Alfonso Quiñónez Molina, and was also the first state-owned radio station. Its very name reveals the project’s whole point: to extend the President’s voice in what amounted to an authoritarian presidentialist communication model in an authoritarian and presidentialist country. Eighty-five years on, El Salvador has 267 radio stations, most of them local, with only 7.4% providing national coverage.
five business groups
The radio spectrum is now dominated by five business groups, not to mention the notable presence of stations belonging to Catholic or evangelical groups.
The SAMIX group has 12 radio frequencies. Its main shareholder is former President Elías Antonio Saca, while the second largest bloc of shares is held by the family of his wife, Ana Ligia Mixco, thereby facilitating this group’s political positioning and pushing it towards the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) camp since 2009-2010. When Saca took office he had 7 radio stations, a figure that had risen to 11 by the time he handed on the presidential sash, casting further shadows over the already questioned administration of radio frequencies in the country.
The second strongest group is Corporación FM, which has seven frequencies and is dominated by José Luis Saca, a cousin of the former President. In this case, the family link is also a political one.
In third place is the KL radio group, followed by Radio Estereo and the Megavisión group, the latter more notable for its participation in the world of television. Megavisión’s slogan is “Now we’re more,” alluding to the large number of local radio stations it manages, although only one—Radio Fuego—has national coverage.
ARPAS provides an arenaOne exception in the radio spectrum is the Association of Participatory Radio Stations and Programs of El Salvador (ARPAS). It started up in 1992 as a collective effort among the community radio stations that emerged with the Peace Accords. The first community radio stations were founded and defended in the country’s repopulated communities, modeling themselves after important experiences in building counter-hegemonic radio, including YSAX, the archbishopric’s station, whose most decisive moments were under Monsignor Romero’s leadership; the guerrilla stations Radio Venceremos and Radio Farabundo Martí of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) during the war years; and YSUCA, the Central American University’s participatory station, which started airing in 1989, at the very time its promoter, Ignacio Ellacuria, was brutally murdered alongside his Jesuit colleagues.
for community radio
Stations such as Radio Segundo Montes, Radio Victoria, Radio Izcanal and Radio Sumpul used pirated wavelengths, outside the law, which was the justification used by Juan José Domenech, then-director of the National Telecommunications Association’s radio electronics department, to order the National Civil Police to confiscate their equipment in 1995. ARPAS later bought a frequency and geographically divided it among its members, currently totaling 21. But the frequency is too narrow for all those stations, so their signals interfere with each other in different regions of the country.
The radio spectrum is a public assetGiven that the radio spectrum is a “public asset,” how did it come to be shared out so inequitably? According to YSUCA director Carlos Ayala, today’s Telecommunications Law, passed in 1996, is ideologically based on the idea that “exploitation of the radio electrical spectrum will be regulated by the competitive market.” This underpinning has its concrete expression in auctioning as a mechanism for accessing the frequencies. “A union or a community can’t have access to a frequency because the one with the greatest income wins the auction,” explained ARPAS president Leonel Herrera. “That’s why business groups have been able to fill up all the frequencies.”
There is also the practice of “external” concessions. By law, the renewal of frequency concessions is “automatic,” without having to go through any evaluation process or even prove that the radio station has operated in accord with the law. It’s a pretty irresponsible practice bearing in mind that frequencies are theoretically public. All concessions formally expire every 20 years, but they end up effectively being life-long. The next concession period begins in 2016.
TV’s Citizen Kane
Boris Eserski is El Salvador’s Citizen Kane, the media world’s “figure” par excellence. All the communication business groups honor him as the “leader of television and radio broadcasting,” to quote El Diario de Hoy. He operated in El Salvador with no commercial competition for 28 years (1956-1984) until the Zedán family made inroads into the field by setting up Tele 12.
Eserski is the most important shareholder in Channels 2, 4 and 6, Multicable and radio stations such as Vox and La Que Buena. Like most Salvadoran big business, he doesn’t limit himself to just one branch of the economy. The book Los Monopolios de la Verdad [Monopolies of Truth] cites him as a shareholder in Cementos de El Salvador (CESSA), Molinos de El Salvador (MOLSA), Bodegas Generales de Depósitos de El Salvador (BODESA), AFP Confía and Unión de Exportadores S.A. de C.V. (UNEX). He’s also a member of the BanAgrícola Group, which joined the BanColombia Group in 2006 when that international consortium bought up BancoAgrícola.
Like Altamirano, Eserski was part of the “Torogoces” group within ARENA, which was the first to call on Antonio Saca to resign the ARENA presidency in 2007. Eserski supported the pre-candidacy of former Foreign Minister Francisco Laínez in ARENA’s 2008 internal elections, and a relative of his, Carlos Araujo Eserski, was backed by the Alfredo Cristiani group in his successful 2009 bid to wrest the presidency of the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP) away from Federico Colorado, an unconditional Saca supporter.
Apart from the cable network, Channel 12 became the only channel with foreign investment after Mexico’s TV Azteca bought 75% of its shares in 1996. Other private channels are 15, 19 and 21, all belonging to the Megavisión group, and Channel 33, which is owned by a private university. Meanwhile, different religious groupings have bought Channels 17, 25, 57 and 65. An exceptional case was the concession of Channel 8, a severely neglected state channel, to Father Flavian Mucci, who directs the conservative ÁGAPE Catholic charity association and is recognized for his good relations with private enterprise and the armed forces.
The deterioration of the public mediaThe state-owned Channel 10, founded as part of the 1971 education reform, suffered the same fate as the state-run National Radio station since the 1990s. According to David Rivas, the presidency’s current communications secretary, “We found the two public media in dire straits. Channel 10 was technically abandoned, with deteriorated, outdated equipment.”
“What had happened is that the government had privatized the public media by turning their functions over to the private media. The state media must be part of the Civil Protection system and give a signal to the national channels. But during the previous governments, the hookups were done by TCS, a private entity. Every so often the previous governments showed a desire to privatize these media or offer them as concessions, because they saw them as a burden.”
Defenders of freedom of expressionThe mass media owners have conferred upon themselves the title of defenders of freedom of expression. El Diario de Hoy, El Mundo, La Prensa Gráfica and their respective digital versions all represent El Salvador in the Inter-American Press Association (AIPA), where they join up with other communication businesspeople to “defend and promote press freedom.”
IAPA’s membership currently totals 1,300 businesspeople. The organization is a self-designated “civil society” organization that believes it has more power than all the continent’s governments to dictate the “true news” to the people of different countries and therefore generate “public opinion.” In 1994, after decades of working alongside governments like the Batista regime in Cuba, the Pinochet regime in Chile and administration after administration in the US, IAPA insisted on “the importance of democracy” in the Declaration of the Chapultepec Hemisphere Conference on Free Speech. To give just one example of its democratic vision, IAPA was one of the first organizations to back the failed coup against Hugo Chávez in April 2002, and it is worth mentioning that various members of IAPA’s Venezuelan section directly participated in that coup attempt. The Chapultepec Conference concluded that “no law or act of government may limit freedom of expression or of the press, whatever the medium.”
IAPA attacks an FMLN IAPA attributes to itself the right to decide who is violating and who is respecting freedom of expression and presents itself as a defender of the “independent press.” It’s therefore no surprise that in October 2011 El Salvador’s delegation to IAPA’s 67th Assembly in Peru denounced an FMLN “right to response” bill. La Prensa Gráfica owner José Roberto Dutriz, who chairs the IAPA Finance and Auditing Commission, informed his colleagues that the FMLN’s proposal could bring with it “a series of traps against freedom of expression.”
“right to response” bill
If one reviews the language of the Bill for Exercising the Right to Rectification and Response presented by the FMLN in September 2011, it is hard to take the accusation seriously. This initiative, based on the Salvadoran Constitution and the American Convention on Human Rights, establishes that when a person’s rights to a private life, dignity and honor are harmed by the libel and slander of any medium or journalist, the injured person will be able to demand the right to respond to the medium and have it published under the same terms as the original news: on the same page, in the same space, at the same time, with the same letter size, etc. If the newspaper complies with this, the case is considered resolved. If it does not, then the affected person may start civil proceedings to force the medium to pay for his or her response to be printed in another print medium. The bill in no way limits the newspaper’s freedom of expression; it just recognizes the same right for the injured party.
The fight over article 191 The Bill for Exercising the Right to Rectification and Response was born at the tail end of the controversy generated by the reform to article 191 of the Salvadoran Penal Code, which addresses the punitive consequences for acts of defamation. In the late nineties, Roberto Bukele was in the middle of a lawsuit with McDonald’s that lasted over 15 years. Bukele was the former owner of the first McDonald’s franchise in Latin America and at the time of the suit owned another fast food chain called Servipronto (McDonald’s with a different name). El Diario de Hoy published various reports denouncing the inadequate hygiene and food conditions in Servipronto. Although the documentary “Super Size Me” suggests such conditions are the rule rather than the exception in McDonalds’ restaurants, the denunciation led Bukele to sue Laffite Fernández, then-director of El Diario de Hoy, and Enrique Altamirano, the newspaper’s owner, for libel.
of the Penal Code
In 2004, after Bukele had leaned on the court to resolve the case, the response actually came from the Legislative Assembly. In the name of freedom of expression, legislator Rodolfo Parker, also the general secretary of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and not by chance El Diario de Hoy’s legal representative, introduced a reform to the Penal Code decriminalizing acts of defamation by the mass media. All of the rightwing parties—ARENA, the PDC and the National Conciliation Party (PCN)—closed ranks to defend the mass media, leading to approval of the reform of article 191, guaranteeing the impunity of their journalists, editors and owners by excluding them from penal legislation on defamation, slander and libel.
Five years later, the new members of the Constitutional bench who came to be known as the “Fantastic Four” for their controversial decisions were elected. The first such decision was handed down in September 2010, just two months after they were appointed, when they declared the reform to Article 191 unconstitutional, arguing, among other things, that granting the media special legal status violated the principle of legal equality.
When businesspeople Early the following year, the Legislative Assembly again reformed the legislation on defamation, slander and libel, decriminalizing all crimes of this kind and establishing only monetary fines. Once again, the legislative Right, which has divided many times since June 2009, joined forces to pass the bill, opposed by the FMLN. PCN legislator Antonio Almendáriz explained that the proposal was based on one presented to the Assembly by “the media directors and editors, which reflects the situation of both the media owners and the editors and journalists, and we thought it fair for us to approve the one the media sent us.”
So it was quite clear: in El Salvador, the mass media formulate the legislation that’s supposed to regulate them. While Almendáriz was the most transparent in recognizing this legislative dynamic, others appealed to more outlandish arguments. Former Vice President Francisco Merino, currently a legislative representative of the PCN, a party that still champions the death penalty, stated that “it’s not one’s personal vocation to go around locking people up.” Rodolfo Parker argued that freedom of expression would have to be protected above all else, because violation of that right was “the ultimate cause of the problems and conflicts” that provoked 12 years of war. Parker’s analysis would have us believe that the repression and inequitable distribution of land and wealth paled into insignificance alongside people’s demand for greater press freedom… Even Don Quijote and Sancho Panza were wheeled out the day this was debated in the Legislative Assembly.
All of this revealed an impeccable political logic: no matter how divided the Right may be, it always closes ranks around matters essential to business interests, particularly when the businesses involved are part of the dominant political and economic system’s superstructure. Furthermore, the mass media’s capacity to politically coordinate their own protection and unite the whole of the bourgeoisie beyond any internal discord among the different groups reveals the importance of the media to these groups.
Communication media Economically, business isn’t bad. A 2006 research study showed the print media’s billing for ads at around US$111.4 million, not counting the sale of nearly 84 million newspapers a year. Thanks to the Press Law, the print media is exempt from both taxes and duty on imported paper. It’s interesting that this exoneration, which deprives the State of income, is included in none of the fiscal reform proposals, including the FMLN’s or the government’s, or the demands of the social movements. It appears that, in the name of “press freedom,” nobody thinks of questioning the newspaper companies’privileges.
or accumulation media?
The billing for ads by radio companies is significantly less; around $10.4 million. We also need to add the income from renting out frequencies to independent program producers, which is becoming increasingly economically relevant.
The television companies are getting the biggest share of the pie, with ad sales valued at nearly $137.3 million, without including the income to the ad agencies linked to them, particularly Telecorporación Salvadoreña.
When businesspeople These media have an almost total power to put anyone who questions them in check by discrediting them in their medium or not covering their questioning, even when it’s national or international news.
are “public opinion”
One example is the experience of the study on electoral propaganda in El Salvador (2008-2009) by the National Development Foundation (FUNDE). The study was aimed not at exposing the accumulation of communication companies, but at influencing the electoral legislation on financial transparency and access to propaganda. Nonetheless, the media were taken aback when the results were revealed at a press conference. As Undersecretary for Transparency Marcos Rodríguez, a researcher at the time, recalls, “The most interesting thing wasn’t the study’s contents, but rather that reaction.” First they claimed the data were “false,” but when the researcher asked them for the “real” data to “correct” the study, they refused, casting doubt on the veracity of their charge. Then they threatened to shut FUNDE out of different spheres of national life. And finally, none of the media present gave the study any coverage.
It was a clear clash between the media’s economic power and the attempt to create what Gramsci called “national consensus.” The companies euphemistically call it generating public opinion and creating culture, but it’s nothing other than the bourgeoisie’s capacity to talk in the name of the “whole society” and convince others that they are effectively speaking for all Salvadorans and have the “authority” to back or delegitimize any public actor. More importantly, they are capable of ensuring that the system’s fundamental ideas, those that allow it to flourish, are seen as “normal” by everyone, even those most damaged by them. These ideas include touting individual success, deifying businesspeople, highlighting competition as a supreme value and making oppression and exploitation seem normal.
The government plan is toIn the current correlation of forces, press freedom is obviously being confused with freedom of enterprise while freedom of expression is being kept in the shadow of the mass media’s power. The declaration by the late ARENA founder Roberto D’Aubuisson that “democracy is nurtured by freedom of expression and of the press” lacks any seriousness in such a context.
strengthen the public media
So what might democratization of El Salvador’s communications mean? For Communications Secretary David Rivas, a first step toward democratizing the media in a country where almost 100% of them are profit-making is to strengthen the state media. One important such effort in the last two years has been to streamline the work and scope of the state-owned Radio Nacional and Channel 10 so they can provide a service in line with the proposal of a new national culture. Currently pending is the streamlining of the Armed Forces’ radio station, Radio Cuscatlán, as it still depends on the Defense Ministry’s agenda and criteria, which may or may not agree with the proposal of this new culture.
Without rejecting the State’s right to have its spokespeople, the Funes government is banking on turning the state media into the cornerstone of a public media system. What does the category “public” consist of? On the one hand, it means that the contents of these media must respond to a national agenda. As Rivas explained, “They have to respond to the public interest, not the public’s interests. The public’s interest may be a soccer game, but the public interest is climate change, poverty, the country’s reconstruction, issues that determine our future. This implies contributing to the creation of another culture, based on our people’s identity; a culture of prevention in the face of vulnerability; a culture that resizes migration and promotes democracy by rescuing the historical memory and fostering a culture of peace.”
A new structure with no pitfalls?The second characteristic of these state media is the future creation of a “collective council that can influence programming,” with representation from all sectors of society. Who might participate in such a structure? For Rivas, “it’s too early to know,” because it’s still a concept in progress. But he imagines that it will include “representatives from churches, universities, NGOs and the government.”
Given the known history of government bodies in which “all the country’s forces” participate, however, it is easy to imagine that private enterprise would also want an important role in this new arena. That would be a serious pitfall, precisely since it already runs almost all of the country’s media and its participation could represent a conflict of interests and/or weaken the model its promoters hope to build.
Other government plansAlso on the agenda of the government’s public system is the creation of an international radio station and a national press agency. Nor is the idea ruled out of a national advertising and publicity agency that could free up the government institutionality from the ones dominated by the big communication companies.
Complementarily, the Communications Secretariat is starting to study new legislation that would create the concept of “community radio,” as there are 20 such stations in the country and no legal concept supporting them. Even the concept of “public media” would need to be created,” as it doesn’t exist either. This can be done either through an executive decree or through a bill that would have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly. Judging by the visceral reaction of the rightwing parties on matters of mass communication, the first option would be more feasible in the short run.
ARPAS wants The radio stations and production centers grouped together in ARPAS are focusing on democratizing the media, understanding communication as a human right that is established when all men and women have access to the media to communicate their messages. If not, that right is reduced to nothing more than a declaration of good intentions. For ARPAS, democratizing the media means regulating broader access to the existing media as well as creating new media that can spread other messages.
In the case of radio, it involves auditing the existing frequencies, discovering how the concession process was granted for each one and the concessions’ current state. It means reviewing the media ownership structure and starting to think about a redistribution of the radio spectrum given that it’s a public asset.
ARPAS agrees with the government’s position that the media’s contents and issues have to respond to people’s needs rather than just those of the dominant sector. It also agrees with the idea of a pluralist proposal in which all voices are heard and all faces seen in the same proportion in the media. They aspire to balancing the use of the radio spectrum, distributing it among private, public and community sectors.
ARPAS’ three ways toARPAS President Leonel Herrera has identified three ways of moving this process forward. The first is the legal way, which involves establishing the legislation needed to facilitate it. ARPAS’ 21 member radio stations see the Audiovisual Communication Services Law approved in Argentina in 2009 as a model for what’s needed in El Salvador. As a first step, they propose reforming the current Telecommunications Law to replace auctioning as the way of accessing frequencies with a needs-based criterion, legally recognizing community media, eliminating the automatic renewal of existing concessions and opening up the radio spectrum to allow more frequencies, thus facilitating the creation of new community and public stations.
democratize the media
The second way is to establish adequate institutionality. The Superintendence of Electricity and Telecommunications (SIGET), the authority responsible for regulating the whole electrical sector, including electricity and fixed and cell phones, is also in charge of administrating the Salvadoran radio spectrum. The common denominator in this set of functions is a technical-electronic criterion in which communication criteria don’t have priority. Argentina’s model is again relevant for ARPAS in this aspect, as the basic role of Argentina’s Federal Communications Council is to regulate media communications. And being a state body, it has the participation of different kinds of media, from the social movements to the private sector, with a kind of semi-autonomous management.
The third way is advocacy on public policies that promote community and other public media. In this area it agrees with the Communications Secretariat’s proposals.
The FMLN’s timid positionsThere’s still a need for the grassroots sectors to assume more authentically the need to use the media to fight for a just society.
The FMLN would be the logical subject to head up this effort, as it has more political, ideological and financial resources, but its incursion into the media world in the post-war years been timid. Radio Mayavisión has limited resources to improve the quality of its productions, while the party’s print media are generally limited to publicizing legislative work or municipal projects in municipalities governed by the FMLN. The weekly El Independiente is an important effort to disseminate political analysis, but it has limited distribution.
At this point in the FMLN’s development as a political subject, one would expect to see on its agenda the launching of a television channel with a grassroots proposal and attractive musical, news and entertainment programming. One would also expect a legislative communication proposal that included ARPAS’ ideas or other similar ones.
The “pluralism” pitfallOne would also expect the broadcasters grouped together in ARPAS to be more aware of their own ability to enhance a project of grassroots society, although this would oblige them to step away from the “pluralist” discourse that mechanically claims “more is better” and appears to see “variety” as synonymous with “quality.” They need to bear in mind that in this country a few have more than their fair share of arenas to communicate their messages, so the people’s media should not concern themselves with providing those few with more arenas in the name of “pluralism.”
They should concentrate on helping the population construct its own liberating messages and not transmit messages that echo the hegemonic sector’s voice. This means politically educating the people who run and participate in the grassroots media. Efforts such as Radio Victoria, in the northern department of Cabañas, can greatly help illuminate this path, given its exemplary experience in this respect.
“The powerful sectors are clearer”Leonel Herrera concludes that “the powerful sectors are perhaps clearer than we are that the media are part of their superstructure, that they are a means of political control and that democratizing them means breaking down the current political control.”
The reaction of the international Right when Venezuela broke with the practice of “eternal concessions” by not mechanically renewing the concession to Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) in 2007—which the outraged Right defined as “shutting down RCTV”—or the protest organized by the Argentine daily Clarín against the Audiovisual Communication Services Law in 2010 reveal the importance of the media not only to their owners, but also to the minorities that are used to controlling their countries.
Democratizing the media is a political proposal that goes hand in hand with democratizing societies. Therefore, the Latin American countries that have advanced most in democratizing their media are the ones also making most progress in their democratic processes. Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have all taken important legislative steps, opening up arenas for community media, regulating ownership and introducing regulations and controls for private media. El Salvador, which is looking to advance its own democratic process, has a lot to learn from those countries.
Elaine Freedman is a popular educator and envío correspondent in El Salvador.