Sunday, May 9, 2010

Media ownership concentration in Latin America

The Inter Press Service has a nice interview with Martín Becerra, an Argentina media researcher and co-author of the new book "Master of the Word: Media Access, Structure and Concentration in Latin America in the 21st Century." In the interview Becerra makes some good points on the concentration of ownership in Latin American media, pointing out its right-wing agenda and origins in the region's dictatorial past.

From the interview:
"This has a lot to do with the unequal societies we have built in Latin America, the most inequitable region on the planet. I believe that if control of the media was not so highly concentrated, the situation of inequality in Latin America would be more actively challenged."
Well said.

In any case, maladjusted got a little curious about Becerra's past work and dug up an article of his published through the University of Lima back in January. In the article, Becerra and co-author Guillermo Mastrini offer a quantitative account of media ownership concentration in Latin America. The countries included in the study are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The study uses the so-called "CR4" (four firm concentration ratio) methodology, a well established index used in competition theory. The index basically adds together the market shares of the top four firms in a given industry, producing a value between 0 and 100. A value of 0 would denote an industry with perfect competition or no ownership concentration while a value of 100 would mean an industry is oligopolistic or extremely concentrated.

[Market share of the top 4 firms by industry, 2000 and 2004]
As can be seen above, the results for Latin America in 2000 and 2004 aren't exactly flattering. As a regional average, virtually every media/communication industry exhibits very high levels of ownership concentration, levels high enough to be considered oligopolistic. What's most disturbing is the huge jump in concentration for the radio industry, increasing from 31% to 70% between 2000 and 2004.

It is somewhat reassuring to see concentration decline in broadcast and cable TV, from 96% to 92% and 96% to 80%, respectively (can't wait to see an updated version of this study to see if the trend continues). However, before we cry from joy we should keep in mind that these numbers are still quite bad.

1 comment:

  1. They will not resign market share without a fight: just see what happened in Argentina as the new media law was discussed and approved. The media moguls sponsored a campaign just short of an Honduras' style coup.