Media and Politics in Latin America: The Struggle for Democracy

Article excerpt

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION Fox. ELIZABETH, ed. Media and Politics in Lai in America: The Struggle for Democracy. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1988, 193 pp. $16.50 paper.

This collection of essays-each one focused on a specific nation-contributes significantly toward filling the English-language void of information about media policies in Latin America. One Central American and eight South American nations are included. The book presents culturally anchored perspectives. Almost all of the authors are Latin American, some of the work is translated from original publications in Spanish and Portuguese.

The foreward by Luis Ramiro Beltran lucidly discusses the problems of media policy in the context of changing governments and the rise of repression, pointing out that just as the region was moving toward serious consideration of reforms encouraged by the New World Information Order debate, military governments were tightening their hold on the continent. He also notes the elements of class exploitation that historically shaped media development in a number of Latin American situations. A comprehensive introduction and conclusions by the editor provides additional context within which to frame the information supplied by each author. Beginning with the 1976 UNESCO-sponsored international meeting in Costa Rica, where for the first time high level government officials considered a general proposal for media reform, twenty Latin American and Caribbean governments met to discuss aspects of the New World Information Order.

In perhaps the pivotal point of the introduction, Fox notes: "Latin America was the first Third World region as a whole to identify certain problems in its national media systems, propose national communications policies and in some cases carry out major structural reforms of broadcasting and the press. They criticized the huge import of news, recordings and television programmes, the lack of regional news exchange, the almost totally private control of the mass media and the absence of public services and channels of popular participation and access. They cited among other problems censorship of news and entertainment and a shortage of trained professionals, technological know-how and regional production facilities."

The chapters that follow each deal with some aspect of these criticisms, highlighting situations that impact directly on media policies and performance. Thus, the thoughtful, informed reader comes away with a selection of examples with which to consider the many implications of interaction between media policy, government intervention, private greed and individual inno-, vation. Missing, however, is an explicit discussion of the continuing economic interlocks between U.S. and Latin American interests which currently impact media policy.

Fox notes the conflict around the NWIO issues: "Latin American broadcasters and newspaper owners, arguing freedom of expression, bitterly resisted what they considered the movement towards new government regulation . .. Before, during and after, the meeting received extensive and mainly negative publicity in the Latin American and world press. …