In “Redefining comparative analyses of media systems from the perspective of new democracies,” authors Claudia Mellado and Claudia Lagos examine the “political, economic, social, cultural, and technological factors” that have influenced the media in Latin America (2). Specifically, they focus on Chile after Pinochet’s regime to analyze media is developing new forms of democracy (4). Mellado and Lagos analyze multiple definitions from various researchers on how the media works. They claim that there are three factors that influence the news production. They are “the individual, organizational, and the social level of influences” (3). In Mellado and Lagos’ studies, they found a theory by researchers Hallin and Mancini, stating “that media systems function according to the social and political systems in which they work” (5). But how does one take all the factors of a government and societal circumstances from around the world, and analyze the media on the same scale? Media is one country is completely different to that in another based off its development and constitution. This conflict led Hallin and Mancini to develop a new definition of media and democracy, and labeled the many variations into different categories.
Latin America has “low levels of democratic development” and since the categories made by Hallin and Mancini apply to certain democracies, it was difficult to explain media under different dictatorships and political structures. In Latin America and most democracies, presidential regimes, discourse strategies, and movements, are all determined by the media. The media is the peoples’ access to stay connected and in touch to what is happening around them. But what we find in Latin America is “political parallelism.” Political Parallelism is “control over the media by private interests regarding political alliances and ambitions that use the media for political purposes” (12). In Chile’s case, the media has assisted with political power and also produced and defended oligopolies (12). The media within Chile also reflects on class. There are low literacy rates in Latin America, making it so only those who could read would be the only virtually ones consuming newspapers. As a result of this divide, the press would focus their target audience to those who were literate. Meanwhile, this audience was also the same group of people who supported and helped fund press projects for political strategies” (12). This brings us to another argument within the media: the audience. In order to make profit, the media has to tend to a specific group or audience. In the political standpoint of news, this means that the media has to market their product to the majority of voters and the popular audience- those who participate in the public agenda and the public space.
Continuing, public space and freedom of speech have a huge influence over the media. In Chile, “the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech without prior censorship, the right of assembly, and the right to demonstrate” (14). However, freedom of speech isn’t really “free” because of the “crimes of opinion and information.” There are criminal penalties plus civil penalties, in addition to the military branch having influence in decisions, but at an inconsistent rate (14). The laws against freedom of speech are generally used to punish individuals for criticism against the government, including in forms of media. “In some cases…some governments have used illegal mechanisms to control the media” (15). Most regimes hold power over the media by owning a state TV station, and also being very conservative with their advertising. In many Latin America countries, the governments have increased their resistance against unions and citizen participation” (16). Censorship on the press was also imposed to prevent the circulation of media in state emergencies. Broadcasters, communicators, and journalists were persecuted, arrested, and killed by military officials to prevent information from going viral.
In Mellado and Lagos’ final remarks they leave the reader with optimism over Chile and their media reforms. They claim that Chile is the second or third best ranked in freedom of press, however this is contradicted with the violence against journalists during protests and demonstrations in 2011.
This article related to a lot of points that have been brought up in our class. The essay discusses how media shapes democracy but also how there are many types of classifications of democracy, so it makes it difficult to put it into categories. This article discussed censorship, and how it is regulated by the government for manipulation in polls and voting. What I found interesting is the fact that many Latin American countries do have Freedom of Speech in their Constitution. But they really don’t. There are loophole laws that cause people to be penalized when they break these “crimes of opinion.” So really, freedom of speech is inexistent.
I also found it interesting how authors Mellado and Lagos broke down different forms of government democracies and analyzed their variations of media and their influence. Media matters on its audience. Although I already was aware of this, I never took into account that a certain group or class could be a target audience because they are the ones supporting the media itself. Media then becomes something that isn’t just controlled by the government, but those who can afford it.
Over the past week, our class has been discussing media and democracy on a macro scale. This article did the same. It broke down different types of democracies in attempt to categorize it in how the media ties back into it. Since all governments have different circumstances and regulations, identifying what type of media it has is difficult. But the main idea I got from this article was that the media is influenced by the people and their influence. If the people don’t have influence, then the government forces that influence with military and extreme censorship and regulation. Without the people, the media is already manipulated. This works for any type of government.
I found my article on the library database Academic Search Complete.
MELLADO, CLAUDIA, and CLAUDIA LAGOS. “Redefining Comparative Analyses Of Media
Systems From The Perspective Of New Democracies.” Comunicación Y Sociedad 26.4 (2013): 1-24. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Jan. 2015