Media pluralism in danger: RSF Launches Media Ownership Monitor in Colombia

13 October 2015 / By Reporters without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is launching a new online resource designed to uncover concentration of media ownership and related conflicts of interest. Colombia is set to become the first country covered by this Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) and is to be followed by other countries worldwide.

For the project, a joint team of researchers collected, investigated, analyzed and contextualized information about media ownership in Colombia. Based on a generic methodology to be applied on other countries as well, the result is a continuously updated database listing the owners of all relevant mass media outlets. In addition, it will provide a contextualization and qualitative analysis by assessing market specifics and the legal environment as well.

Media pluralism is a key aspect of any democratic society, since only independent and free media are able to reflect the true variety of opinions of a society, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. Uncovering concentration in the media market is an important first step towards ending the unchecked influence of dominant media owners.

Mass media are often used not only to form public opinion, but also as weapons of their owners in order to impose their interests”, added Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, which proposed and implemented the MOM. “As an antidote, the Media Ownership Monitor aims to increase media owners’ accountability towards the public.

Promoting public consciousness and regulation in order to safeguard media pluralism

In Colombia, Reporters Without Borders has cooperated with the Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (FECOLPER) to facilitate the MOM’s adaptation and implementation.

The Colombia MOM will cover the ten most important media outlets for each of the TV, radio broadcast, print media and internet sectors, as well as the most important media groups and media owners. Its initial findings will be published and discussed in the framework of a conference titled “Concentration of communication media in Colombia”, to be held in Bogotá on Thursday with international experts and high-level journalists, media entrepreneurs and scientists (http://www.dequiensonlosmedios.co). The MOM Colombia will also be made accessible online by means of a dedicated website, “De quién son los medios ?” (“Who owns the media ?”,www.monitoreodemedios.co).

Concentration of Media ownership inhibits media freedom and pluralism

Considering the tremendous wealth and power of some local oligarchs, seamlessly mixing very profitable businesses, diverse political activities and media operations, it can be observed worldwide that the development of pluralistic media landscapes stalls or even falls back in many cases. And even though the internet as a medium with low barriers to market entry might seem as a hotchpotch of fresh, new voices and opinions at first glance, it often only disguises the rise of new, even more powerful oligopolies.

Considering the importance of media as a facilitator of societal debates, watchdog of governments and essential mediator of democratic processes, the significance of lacking transparency of media ownership becomes clear. How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don’t know who provides it ? How can journalists work properly, if they don’t know who controls the company they work for ? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don’t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel ?

MOM is a project by Reporters Without Borders which has been proposed and launched by Reporters Without Borders Germany. The project is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ). The launch of the second MOM is currently under preparation in Cambodia.

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