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Uruguay is close to joining its neighbor Argentina as the next South American country to consider a new communications law. The new law, known as “The Audiovisual Services and Communications Law,” would regulate media ownership and set new standards for broadcast media.

Argentine press agency Telam reported that on May 21, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica sent a draft of the Audiovisual Services and Communications Law to congress.

President Mujica said in a public statement that the law was intended to, “regulate radio services, television and other audiovisual media to build a harmonious audiovisual system with a balanced and fair competition between operators.”

One fundamental purpose of the bill is to regulate monopolies and oligopolies. The law specifies that “no business will be able to hold the rights to more than three radio or television stations, nor can it possess more than two radio stations in the same frequency” (AM, FM, Satellite). The law also sets restrictions on the percentage of households to which any one private television company can provide services, America Economia reported.

Another aspect of the new law called for the establishment of an enforcement authority, the “Council of Audiovisual Communication” (Consejo de Comunicación Audiovisual – CCA), whose tasks would include “proposing, implementing, monitoring, and enforcing compliance with the policies of the system,” according to The Argentina Independent.

Similar proposals in Ecuador and Argentina have been met with sharp criticism from free press advocates, both domestically and internationally.

Additionally, the new law would regulate content for minors and specify a percentage of broadcast time that must be dedicated to nationally produced programs (60% of television broadcast and 30% of radio broadcasts). Finally, the law would require media organizations to publish codes of ethics and establish other journalistic norms, such as the right of journalists “to refuse to submit material with their name, images, and/or any content of that has been modified without their consent.”

The bill consists of 13 chapters and 183 articles, and will be debated first in the Uruguayan House of Representatives before passing to the senate. Critics of the law, including Pedro Bordaberry, leader of the center-right Colorado Party, say that the law is overly restrictive and that it emphasizes public media over privately owned media.

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