The Mass Media
Beginning in the early 1960s, the Dominican Republic experienced a communications revolution. The spread of radio, television, and newspapers awakened the previously isolated countryside, stimulated rapid urbanization, and led to the political mobilization of millions of people who had never participated in politics before. In addition, since Trujillo's death in 1961, the Dominican media had been among the freest of all those in Latin America.
There were 123 radio stations--115 commercial and 8 government-sponsored--operating in the country in 1989. Of these, thirty-four stations operated in the capital city alone, and half that number broadcasted from the second city, Santiago. Most other secondary cities had several radio stations. All stations were government-licensed. The Dominican Republic's large number of stations ensured that every part of the island was accessible to radio broadcasting.
The advent of cheap transistor radios in the early 1960s ushered in the communications revolution. Even poor peasants, eking out a subsistence living, could afford such a radio. Transistor radios brought in the political news from the capital city and thus helped to integrate rural elements into the national political life for the first time. Just as important, they also exposed Dominicans to the culture, the behavior, and the music of the outside world.
There were eighteen television channels, operated by six companies in 1989; two channels were government-owned, and sixteen were private. All were government-licensed. Although most Dominicans could not afford a set of their own, those who did not own one often watched at neighbors' houses or in public places, such as bars or shops. Thanks to relay stations, television broadcasts originating in Santo Domingo could be transmitted to the interior.
The main newspapers were El Caribe and Listín Diario. Both were dailies, published in the capital city, and both had circulations over 30,000. El Caribe was moderate and nationalistic; it was, for a long time, the main newspaper in the country. Listín Diario, founded in 1889 and published intermittently thereafter, was most recently revived in 1964. It was more reformist and more critical of the government. It established a reputation as a crusading paper and soon matched El Caribe in circulation.
Other major Santo Domingo newspapers were El Tiempo, El Nacional, and Última Hora. El Tiempo was conservative, El Nacional was more crusading and nationalistic, and Última Hora had been launched by Listín Diario as an afternoon newspaper to challenge El Nacional. In Santiago there were two main newspapers: La Información, a conservative afternoon paper, and El Sol, a moderate morning paper. Other cities had smaller papers, focused mainly on local news. The big circulation dailies all received the major wire services--Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters, and others. As a result, their international coverage was often quite extensive. The largest weekly newsmagazine in the country was Ahora, which was owned by El Nacional.
Each main political party published its own small newspaper and aired its own radio program. The major trade unions, professional associations, and interest groups also produced their own newspapers, although they often published sporadically, and some maintained public relations offices. The armed forces operated its own radio station, and the Roman Catholic Church owned and operated several radio stations and small newspapers. The Voice of America was widely listened to; Radio Havana and Radio Moscow also beamed broadcasts that could be heard throughout the country.
Although the coverage of news stories was not always entirely professional, and although there had been attempts by government and the military over the years to intimidate, or even to close down, some papers and stations, by and large the Dominican media had been remarkably free, independent, and diverse since 1961. They performed an important educational function in the country, and they exerted an important influence in mobilizing the country politically. In fact, the mass media had become one of the most important bulwarks of Dominican democracy.
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