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Chile - The Media
Chile has a long tradition of an active press, closely tied to the country's competitive political parties. Prior to the 1973 coup, Santiago had ten daily newspapers spanning the ideological spectrum. These included, on the left, the Communist El Siglo, the Socialist Ultima Hora, and the far-left papers Puro Chile and Clarín. The Christian Democrats owned La Prensa. Newspapers identified with the center-right or far right included El Mercurio (founded in 1827), Las Ultimas Noticias (founded in 1902), La Segunda (founded in 1931), La Tercera de la Hora (founded in 1950), and La Tribuna.
The wide ideological range of Chile's major newspapers did not mean that circulation was evenly distributed. All of the newspapers supporting the Allende government had a combined circulation of less than 250,000, while, for instance, La Tercera de la Hora, a center-right paper, had a circulation of 200,000. By far the most important newspaper in Chile has been El Mercurio, with a Sunday circulation of 340,000 and wide influence in opinion circles. The El Mercurio Company, easily the most powerful newspaper group in Chile, also owns La Segunda, the sensationalist Las Ultimas Noticias, and regional papers. With its close ties to the Navy of Chile (Armada de Chile), El Mercurio played a critical role in mobilizing support against the Allende government, openly supporting the military coup.
After the coup, Chile's independent press disappeared. The papers of the left were closed immediately, and the centrist La Prensa stopped publishing a few months later. Newspapers that kept publishing strongly supported the military government and submitted to its guidelines on sensitive issues; they also developed a keen sense of when to censor themselves. The print media became even more concentrated in the hands of two groups: the Edwards family, owners of El Mercurio, with approximately 50 percent of all circulation nationwide, and the Picó Cañas family, owners of La Tercera de la Hora, with another 30 percent. Only toward the end of the military government did two opposition newspapers appear--La Época, founded in 1987 and run by Christian Democrats, and Fortín Mapocho, a publication run by groups on the left that became a daily newspaper in 1987. By 1990 Chile had approximately eighty newspapers, including thirtythree dailies.
During the years of military rule, opposition opinion was reflected in limited-circulation weekly magazines, the first being Mensaje, a Jesuit publication founded in 1951. Over time, magazines such as Hoy, a Christian Democratic weekly started in 1977; Análisis and Apsi, two leftist publications that began reaching a national audience in 1983; and the fortnightly Cauce, established in 1983, all circulated under the often realized threat of censorship, confiscation of their publications, and arrests of reporters and staff. In perhaps the worst case of government suppression, Cauce, Apsi, Análisis, and Fortín Mapocho were all shut down from October 1984 to May 1985. After the restoration of democracy, two conservative weekly magazines were founded that were opposed to the Aylwin government were the influential ¿Qué Pasa? (founded in 1971) and Ercilla (begun in 1936). By 1990 Chile had more than twenty major current affairs periodicals.
The return of civilian government did not lead to an explosion of new publications. Both Época and Fortín Mapocho, which had received some support from foreign sources, faced enormous financial challenges in competing with the established media. Fortín folded, and Época finally was sold to a business group, which retained the paper's standards of objective reporting. El Mercurio continued to dominate the print medium and remained the most influential newspaper in the country. The El Mercurio Company remained closely tied to business groups that had supported the military regime but made efforts, particularly through La Segunda, to present balanced and fair reporting. The only openly pro-CPD newspaper in Chile was the government-subsidized financial paper, La Nación, which reflected the views of the authorities.
Radio traditionally has been dominated by progovernment stations, the most notable exceptions being Radio Cooperativa, run by Christian Democrats, and Radio Chilena, run by the Roman Catholic Church. At first the size of the audience for these two stations did not approach the listenership levels of Minería, Portales, and Agricultura--stations identified with the business community. Radio Tierra, claiming to be the first all-women radio station in the Americas, had identified exclusively with women since its establishment in 1983.
Although the opposition had some print outlets, it had no access to television. Not until 1987, in the months leading up to the plebiscite, did opposition leaders gain limited access to television. The medium was strictly controlled by the authorities and by network managers: the University of Chile, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and the National Television Network of Chile--Channel 7 (Televisión Nacional de Chile--Canal 7).
Competitive politics transformed television news broadcasting, introducing numerous talk shows that focus on politics. Channel 7, the official station of the military government, was reorganized by the junta after Pinochet's defeat as a more autonomous entity presenting a broad range of views and striving for more impartial news presentation. The station with the widest audience in Chile in the early 1990s was the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile's Channel 13, offering a right-of-center editorial line. Other channels with a more regional focus included Channel 5 of Valparaíso, operated by the Catholic University of Valparaíso (Televisión Universidad Católica de Valparaíso--Canal 5); Channel 11, operated in Santiago by the University of Chile (Corporación de Televisión de la Universidad de Chile--Canal 11); and two commercial channels, Valparaíso's Channel 4 and Santiago's Red Televisiva Megavisión--Channel 9, owned by the Pinto Claude Group and directed by Ricardo Claro. In May 1993, the Luksic Group entered the private television market by acquiring a 75 percent share of Maxivisión (TV MAX), broadcast by microwave on UHF (ultrahigh frequency) in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago.
The National Council of Television (Consejo Nacional de Televisión) was charged with regulating the airwaves and setting broadcast standards. Its jurisdiction in matters of censorship was unclear in the wake of Supreme Court rulings challenging its decisions.
More about the Government and Politics of Chile.
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