Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bye Bye Community Radio

CONATEL would like to stop issuing licenses for these low power stations and so proposes a rule to suspend the issuance of licenses for such stations. The indication that they intend this to pass without meaningful input is that they've allowed less than a week for public comments on the resolution, and have not publicized the rule at all.

The radio spectrum, especially FM is mostly saturated in the urban cities of Honduras, but those signals don't reach very far because Honduras is a mostly mountainous country. The large media conglomerates that own the urban stations have not invested in repeater stations across the country, so that their signals often are not available far outside the urban centers. That's where low power community radio stations come in to play.

There are currently 28 low power community radio stations licensed in Honduras. They broadcast on frequencies that duplicate those of stations in the larger, urban market, but because they use low power transmitters, their signal doesn't interfere with the urban station, even if they are relatively close by.

Community radio serves to broaden public access to the airwaves. They are, in general, not owned by media conglomerates; they serve the community they're located in, not some management team in a different town.

Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion, recently expressed concern over the climate of violence and criminalization towards community radio in Honduras. He singled out the Lobo Sosa government for its attacks on community radio.

The garifuna station, Faluma Bimetu had to close down for several weeks because of threats to burn the station and its occupants. Someone burned the station down once already in 2010. The community station in Zacate Grande security forces forcibly took over the station and damaged it.

La Rue said that the attacks on community radio in Honduras had increased since the coup, and continued under the Lobo Sosa administration. He reminded the government of the International Civil and Human Rights Pact.

Now the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CONATEL) wants to issue a rule suspending the issuance of licenses and frequencies for low power FM community radio stations. The claim in the proposed resolution, is that these FM frequencies are saturated such that in populated parts of the country, they can't issue any more licenses to normal FM stations. Second, they allege that these low power FM transmitters are an obstacle to the introduction of new broadcast regions and services for these "normal" stations.

Reading the resolution, what's happening is that the oligarchy controlled media companies want to install repeater stations (see paragraph two of the "Resolves" part) using their frequency and cannot because at least in some cases, the frequency is in use by these community radio stations. In other words, community radio stands in the way of the large media companies increasing their monopolies.

Only in the departments of Olancho and El Paraiso will CONATEL consider issuing new community radio licenses under this resolution.

So by all means, please comment on this extension of the rights of media empires to get larger at the cost of more public access to media. Comments will be received by CONATEL either by mail at:
Edificio CONATEL, Colonia Modelo, sexta Avenida Sur Oeste contiguo a HONDUTEL. Comayagüela M. D. C., Francisco Morazán, Honduras.
Aportado Postal: 15012 Tegucigalpa
or by email at: and do so before February 4 at 5 pm.

Just don't be surprised when they ignore you.

1 comment:

RNS said...

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on the proposed CONATEL resolution in which they said:

"One can suspect that this new law is the basis to repress or limit, for political reasons, certain media"

They point to article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which Honduras signed. Article 13 prohibits restrictions on freedom of expression, including indirect restrictions like abuse of official regulations

"In this sense, with this resolution Honduras is committing an offense with respect to the international treaties it has signed," they concluded.