Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Transnation: Globalization and the Reorganization of Chilean Television in the Early 1990s

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Transnation: Globalization and the Reorganization of Chilean Television in the Early 1990s

Article excerpt

In 1988 a broad coalition of centrist and center-left political parties--the Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia (Coalition of Parties for Democracy)--defeated Chilean General Augusto Pinochet in a national plebiscite, paving the way for a transition to civilian rule after a decade and a half of military dictatorship. However, 2 years remained before the military government would step aside and allow the first civilian government to take office. Anticipating the transfer of power, the Pinochet government initiated a radical transformation of the political and economic framework that had structured Chilean television under authoritarian rule. University-run television stations were privatized, broadcast licensing was deregulated, and cable television was allowed to develop in a regulatory vacuum.

In this way, the framework within which Chilean media and telecommunication infrastructure would develop in the post-Pinochet years was largely predetermined by the military regime in the final 2 years of its rule. On the one hand, the military government pushed for the accelerated, deregulated development of private media in the late 1980s to create a strong, procapitalist cultural apparatus that would stave off any potential statist tendencies of the entering civilian government. Cable television was allowed to develop in the final years of the military regime without the prior establishment of a legal or regulatory framework. In 1989, the Pinochet government promulgated an 11th-hour communication law that created private television in Chile for the first time and virtually privatized much of the broadcast spectrum by granting indefinite spectrum rights to private broadcasting licensees. The new law also facilitated foreign ownership of Chilean media and placed few restrictions on either vertical or horizontal cross-ownership. In the meantime, the military government deliberately bankrupted the state-run Television Nacional (National Television [TVN]), Chile's largest and most influential network, in an effort to debilitate a potential ideological tool of the new government (J. Navarrete, personal communication, August 19, 1997). On the other hand (and somewhat paradoxically), the military put into place a powerful state apparatus of moral regulation, the Consejo Nacional de Television (National Television Council [CNTV]), to guarantee the "correct functioning" of Chilean television--that is, its "constant affirmation" of national values, morality, and good taste. The ideological prohibitions on left-wing political parties formalized by Article 8 of the military constitution of 1980 also remained in place during the plebiscite; the presence, in the new Congress, of senators appointed by the military would make it very difficult to alter that document in the posttransition years. In short, before stepping down, the Pinochet government had set the parameters for the development of a postauthoritarian cultural environment that was morally conservative but, at the same time, thoroughly transnationalized and radically neoliberal in economic terms.

Patricio Aylwin, Chile's first democratically elected president since the 1973 coup, assumed office in 1990. Under the Aylwin government, Chilean television experienced the consequences of the regulatory changes initiated by the military regime. There was a rapid and substantial influx of private investment in broadcasting and cable television from both foreign and domestic sources. As a direct consequence, television broadcasting infrastructure expanded dramatically. Cable television grew rapidly as well, linking the wealthiest Chileans to the transnational media flows of CNN, MTV, and ESPN, as well as a wide range of European and Latin American channels. Chilean producers also began to export their programming beyond national frontiers: to other Latin American countries, to North America, and to Asia. At the same time, the deregulatory climate quickly led to the rise of domestic and transnational media conglomerates and the concentration of media ownership, raising questions about the pluralism of Chilean news and public debate. …

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