In the article “Dilemmas of Democratisation: Media Regulation and Reform in Argentina,” ( accessed on Academic Search Complete) Robbie Macrory argues that the media in a democratizing world, such as Latin America, should have some form of regulatory legislature in order to preserve democratic ideals and allow for the people to become active members of their government. Macrory uses Argentina as a case study to demonstrate the increasing importance of media in a democratizing country. Argentina, like many other countries in Latin America, had many years of political instability due to a set of dictatorships that lead the state. Recently, however, Argentina has lead the way in Latin America by establishing legislation that regulates the different forms of media. The article goes in to detail of what makes up the Ley de Medios and Macrory uses this significant legislation to support his argument.
Macroy begins his argument by first discussing the role of the media in democratic theory. According to Gunther and Mughan, 2001, the democratic theory mentions that the existence of a free press has been a fundamental value of liberal democracy. Macrory then states that the role of media in a democracy is “to ensure the existence of a broadly and equitably informed citizenry that can hold elites accountable and ensure popular control of government through free and fair elections” (Macrory 179). Macrory is basically stating that the purpose of the media in a democratic society is to inform the citizens of what is occurring in order for them to have the ability to cast informed ballots. The media also allows for citizens to function as “watchdogs” on government abuses of power.
After describing the role of the media in a democratic society, Macrory points to the weaknesses of not having appropriate regulation of the media in a democratic system. One of his arguments states that low marginal costs and economies of scale encourage the concentration of ownership. This brings the risks of over-representation of certain political views or forms of cultural output (Macrory 180). Macrory mentions that this has been and continues to be a great problem in Latin America. Countries such as Venezuela show particularly high levels of concentration. Macrory also argues that media without the appropriate regulations in a market-based broadcasting system will only produce certain type of content. Macrory states, “the breadth of information needed by citizens in a democracy is unlikely to be fully satisfied by consumer preferences as these tend towards entertainment rather than in-depth news and current affairs information” (180). Television companies make greater amounts of money by showing what the people want to see which is entertainment. Macrory explains that by companies thinking in their profits and providing entertainment only can result in a diminished quality of public debate and less political participation by the public. This seems to be occurring in the United States in recent years. The media has been focused on providing entertainment for youth and young adults. Little to no in-depth news or current affairs information is covered which means that young adults who are old enough to vote in elections decide not to do so. The turnout for the last elections was one of the poorest since the 1940s. If this continues to be the trend the media uses to profit from younger generations, then it seems like the interest in politics will continue to diminish in the future.
The media not properly regulated does pose a threat to a democratic system. For this reason, Macrory now uses Argentina’s Ley de Medios to discuss the strengths that a regulation on media can bring to a democratic society, particularly to Latin American countries that are in the process of democratization. Argentina decided to take on this reform of media known as Ley de Medios due to President Cristina Fernandez’s desire to weaken Grupo Clarin, which has been accused of taking part in the human rights violations of the dictatorships of the 1970s. To start off, Macrory argues that the most important articles of the ley de medios are those that deal with the structure of media ownership in Argentina. The law first distinguishes between three types of media providers: state, private for-profit, and private non-profit. By making the distinction between these three groups, the ley de medios is broadening the range of voices in the democratic debate. This three-group distinction also enables historically excluded sectors to add their voice to the debate. Also, the law places limitations on ownership of broadcasting licenses which promotes principles of plurality and diversity. At the national level, the law states that “a single company cannot provide services to more than 35 per cent of the country’s population or subscribers” (Macrory 184). Given their large size, multimedia conglomerates such as Grupo Clarin, will have to sell of radio stations and local television stations. This argument presented by Macrory goes hand in hand with what we discussed in class. The ley de medios raises the voices of many groups that could not participate in politics before. These people can now take part in media programs and have an opinion that matters.
A second argument provided by Macrory discusses the regulatory bodies that will be in charge. Macrory argues that these regulatory bodies will ensure that there is plurality and diversity within the media sector. The most important of these bodies is the Autoridad Federal de Sevicios de Comunicacion Audiovisual (AFSCA; Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communivcation Services). This body is responsible for applying and enforcing the law. Another body is the Consejo Federal de Comunicacion Audiovisual (CFCA; Federal Council for Audiovisual Communication), which is an advisory body comprised of representatives, from local government, private and non-profit media, unions, university broadcasters and indigenous groups (Macrory 185). The article also mentions that the individuals that take part in these groups will only serve for a limited amount of time as denoted in the law. This formation of bodies for regulation is a very intelligent idea. The best part of these bodies is that they are formed by people that come from different parts of society. In this way, if any part of the law is broke, the regulatory body will most likely be fair in assessing the crime.
To conclude, Macrory mentions that technological developments ensure that regulation will require continual analysis due to continual advancements in technology. Macrory’s main point could be said to be that the ley de medios represents significant progress towards pluralism and equality within the media. The ley de medios allows for a country to be more democratic and for that country to reach its goals as a democracy as well. Distinct political groups that did not have a voice before now have the opportunity to reach out to different groups of people to gain followers. Also, the people have the opportunity to view different programs and hear different people on the radio and in this way they can form their own opinion and decide on what to vote on their own. Previously, it was usually just one or two political entities manipulating the media and deceiving the people. This is no longer possible in Argentina due to the new media regulations. Macrory does believe that this form of media regulation is what needs to be done not only in Latin America, but in countries around the world in order to create more democratic societies.
MACRORY, ROBBIE. “Dilemmas Of Democratisation: Media Regulation And Reform In Argentina.” Bulletin Of Latin American Research 32.2 (2013): 178-193. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.