Telégrafo publisher discusses public media in Ecuador.
By Felipe Bianchi, Leonardo Severo and Caio Teixeira, | Quito
Translation: C. Brayton
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Publisher of the daily El Telégrafo, dubbed “dean of the Ecuadoran press,” Orlando Pérez discusses public communications and Ecuador’s Citizen Revolution.
Considered the “dean of the national press,” the daily El Telégrafo is the only Ecuadoran newspaper that circulates through all of Ecuador’s 24 provinces. What is more, the newspaper is unique among its peers in that it is a public media organization.
An explanation is needed at this point.
Since 2007, when Rafael Correa Delgado became President of the Republic, the media panorama of Ecuador has changed. In that year, several public media outlets were created: Ecuador TV (ECTV), Public Radio of Ecuador (RPE) and the El Telégrafo newspaper. Regarding these last two media, RPE replaced the former Radio Nacional and El Telégrafo was conﬁscated by the Deposit Guarantee Agency (AGD) from its owner, a former banker, and since then has been administered by the State.
Source: UNESCO-IPDC, «Assessment of Media Development in Ecuador, 2011» (PDF). Start reading at the bottom p. 14 for a list and discussion of media property expropriations.
El Telégrafo shares its print shop with the popular tabloid PP, El Verdadero
Orlando Pérez received ComunicaSul at the company’s headquarters – The Public Media Building [above] — in Quito on February 16, the anniversary of the paper’s founding 129 years ago.
Pérez spoke in some detail about the process known as the Citizen Revolution, along with comments on politics and media and journalism as it is practiced today in Ecuador.
Regarding the enormous social and economic strides realized by the current government during the last six years, Pérez says that were it not for Rafael Correa, his newspaper would probably not still exist.
“Telégrafo will die as soon as the right takes power, because the interests they defend are private, not public, in nature. They have no interest in the human story, only in the story of the capital markets.” As the mainstream media plays the game dictated by conservative political forces, Pérez says, “Telégrafo takes pains to produce a brand of journalism that is creative, intelligent, critical, and critically self-aware.”
In line with this editorial philosophy, Telégrafo was named one of the eight leading Latin American newsprint papers in 2012. The award was granted by the German WAN-IFRA — the World Association of Newspapers.
Pérez says that along with journalistic rigor, the idea is to achieve excellence in terms of aethetics and infographic illustration as well.
As to content, Pérez says, Telégrafo has a standing commitment to go beyond the standards imposed by the mainstream corporate media.” “We cannot survive using the same model as they do. So what kind of journalism do we want?” he asked. “We are a public organization and therefore it makes no sense to view our results in an unfair comparison to others, which operate within parameters laid down by the major banks and financial institutions. We cannot treat culture with a marketing mentality.
A known critic of proposals to require a diploma and licensing for new journalists, Pérez points out that hardly any journalism programs require the study of public relations or of journalism that addresses the needs and demands of social movements.
“Professional education is highly commercialized — something I am sure is true of other countries in the regions. All I ask of my staff at El Telégrafo, is that they think. Thinking, above all, is what a journalist should do. It seems to me that it is this independent thinking that academic programs and the major media organizations are unwilling to permit.
Telégrafo, according to publisher Orlando Pérez, has played an important role in denouncing working conditions in the news industry. Many of the major dailies pay pitiful salaries, delay payment, and often “even try to pay in beer or other items.”Pérez is proud that the minister of labor relations opened an inquiry into the matter based on coverage that appeared in Telégrafo, which he calls “a news organization that respects the rights of its workers.”
Telégrafo also takes pride in fulfilling its social function, says Pérez. “Every day, in our Society column, we publish the actions and protests of the popular movements, regardless of whether the government will be happy or angry to hear it. …
The Citizen Revolution and the Media
Pérez approves of the Correa government’s posture towards mass media and its confrontation with Ecuador’s media empire. “Correa is an expert in the political pedagogy of the media, explaining to the people what these media groups are, how they funtion, and what ends they serve,” he syas Pérez says“the president never once sat down to dinner with mainstream media owners, or even so much as returned their phone calls.”
On the other side of the equation, Pérez says, every Saturday the president visits a small or medium-size broadcast media outlet, taking part in its on-air programming and boosting its ratings. After this visit, Correa speaks directly to the people using public channels.
Pérez — who previously served as Secretary of Communication for both the Constituent Assembly of 2007 and the new Congress — has a plan to build a network of Latin American news organizations aiming to promote the process of continental — South American — integration.
“Our idea is to participate collectively in this complex process, producing and sharing information. In March, we have scheduled trips to various countries to discuss this approach. ComunicaSul is already invited to join the initiative”, he says.
Correa is frequently singled out as a threat to freedom of expression and a nationalizer of private media. He certainly is agressive on these points.
Actually, though, the expropriation of a number of media outlets came as part of a state bail-out program, in which news vehicles would be rescued and given room and board by the state until such time as they can pay their debt and resume making money.
Another decision by the State that determined a new structure of media ownership was the seizure by AGD in 2008 of the assets of ex-bankers, a consequence of the bank crisis of 1999. These included TC Televisión and Gamavisión channels, which currently operate as GamaTV and Cablenoticias (closed-circuit news), as well as two radio stations operating in Guayaquil and two magazines. These media are currently administered by the State.
However, according to oﬃcial announcements, they should be in the process of being sold to private individuals or companies.
Another change due to the new Constitution is the constitutional provision prohibiting bankers from owning stock in media; this measure forced some media, owned by a bank’s largest shareholder, to sell their stocks.
According to the Radio and Television Frequency Audit Commission, the media landscape in Ecuador is largely dominated by eight main groups: Eljuri Group, Isaías Group, Vivanco Group, Egas Group, Alvarado Group, Mantilla Group, Pérez Group and Martínez Group.
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