The Media Landscape of Bolivia

September 09, 2016  |  By Melanie Hazenberg, Netherlands

The Media Landscape of Bolivia

It is no secret that the media landscape has shifted since it started around ninety years ago. Where it started in 1927 with listening to the radio with the whole neighborhood, the media landscape is now much more than that. Hundreds television and radio channels exist nowadays. How is the media landscape in South America’s poorest country - Bolivia?

Bolivia is one of the most cultural countries of Latin America. With 36 different, indigenous languages; it is a country full of cultural traditions. Bolivia has 8 million citizens of which the main part lives in the cities. But it  is much more than that. Bolivia has a huge media landscape with more than 400 radio channels and 200 privately owned television stations. I attended a local and a news television channel to see how they make a broadcast.  

Visiting a local television station in Cochabamba

I visited two television channels so my opinion is based on these two. My first thought when I walked into the building where the television station is located was that I can walk in easily without even showing my identification. There was security who asked our name and for whom we came, but not more than that. When you are going to a news television channel in The Netherlands this is a big difference. You need to have permission to enter the building and then you are not even in the studios. When you want to take a close look to the real studios you need to have permission of the boss. Luckily, I could enjoy my time to look at the studio and attend a live broadcast in a local studio of Cochabamba.  At the other television channel, Unitel, it was the same. As soon as you enter the building, you can see the studio where they present the news in the nights. It was very interesting to see how small but professional these studios are comparing with what I am used too in my home country, The Netherlands. How did the television stations in Bolivia become like this?

Beginnings of the television

The beginnings of the television in the country were typical; under protection of the state. Towards the end of the 1960s Television Boliviana or Channel 7 were born during the period of the military governments which continued until 1982. This station had the monopoly for broadcasts until the 1980s. Four years later the spectrum was opened for private channels. Channel 9 and Channel 2 started. Channel 2 had its proposal for commercial television. The 1980s meant a period with a lot of development for the Bolivian television. The most important thing was the breaking of the state monopoly (Media and conflict in Bolivia, 2007).

Freedom of the press

So since the 1980s there have been commercial as well as public television channels. The press has the right ‘to freely express his or her ideas and opinions to any media’, according to article 7 of the Bolivian Constitution states. This rule is only enacted for ‘journalists who hold nationally recognized qualifications and who are recorded in the ‘National Registry of Journalists.’ During the period of this law and the start of the other TV channels the media gained in prestige and credibility. Due to this, Bolivia has right now 194 television channels of which 66 are in the capital and 128 in the provinces. This is an enormous television landscape of a country of which is known as ‘the poorest country of South- America.’  The media landscape in Bolivia became more open and more things are possible since it started with Channel 7 in the early beginning.

Bolivian people are now enjoying daily shows on the commercial channel, for example; ‘cantando por un sueño’, or ‘bailando por un sueño.’ Or they can watch the news on one of many possibilities. I hope that the media landscape keeps developing because it is great to see that television in a country like Bolivia can change from monopoly into almost 200 different channels. It was great to get a chance to visit the local news channels of Cochabamba.

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