CONTENT CONTROL IN ECUADOR
Author: Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río, Falconi Puig Abogados
Since December 8, 2008, the National Office of Broadcasting and Television Control of Ecuador (CONARTEL) filled 13 administrative cases against several means of communication. The basis for the cases filed by CONARTEL are related to the violations of different Articles of the National Constitution, the Broadcasting and Television Law, and also of Resolution No. 5377 issued by the mentioned office on November 17, 2008.
The administrative cases filed by CONARTEL are principally based on Article 19 of the Ecuadorian new Constitution which stipulates that content with informative, educational and cultural purposes shall prevail in all types of media, which also must promote spaces for the broadcasting of national independent production; and prohibit advertising that might lead to violence, discrimination, racism, drug addiction, sexism, religious or political intolerance or any other practice that might infringe rights protected by the constitution or any law.
Article 44 of Resolution No. 5377 stipulates that CONARTEL will regulate and control the artistic, cultural and moral quality of the programs and acts transmitted by radio and television stations all over the national territory.
Additionally, Article 49 of the resolution, stipulates that programs transmitted from 6h00 to 21H00 have to be suitable for all audiences and adapt their content to what is stipulated in Article 48 of the Regulatory Law of Broadcasting and Television: Between 06:00 and 21:00 all means of communication are prohibited from transmitting scenes containing violent, cruel, explicit sexual or promiscuous acts. The objective is the prevention and regeneration of vices and other social and individual moral deviations. The language used has to be morally admissible for the general public, avoiding the use of vulgar words, but respecting the use of popular language elements, which enriches the culture. Letter f) also stipulates: Stations will have to control the content of their broadcastings in order to prevent information that could be considered as promoting criminal behavior, or that goes against moral principles, national idiosyncrasies, ways of living, religious beliefs and national values that should prevail over foreign values.
CONARTEL, based on the mentioned Resolution (No. 5377) made serious allegations especially against one particular television channel (TELEAMAZONAS) against which three administrative procedures have been initiated. CONARTEL tried to sanction the mentioned channel for broadcasting, during the daily transmissions; scenes of the bull fight ferias (a traditional annual spectacle that started between 1584 and 1586 to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Quito in 1534) because those transmissions are considered to contain “scenes of violence and extreme cruelty against animals”. Additionally, the CONARTEL prohibits the broadcasting of the famous television cartoon series “The Simpsons” created by Matt Groening, as well as the cartoon “Dragon Balls” on the 06h00 to 21h00 schedule, considering them not suitable for all audiences and sustaining that TELEAMAZONAS casted the mentioned transmissions in a prohibited schedule according to the Broadcasting and Television Law.
If the television station is found responsible for the claims made by CONARTEL, the channel will be considered as recurrent on the same violation, due to fact that the station was sanctioned before due to “misleading news” when using the word “clandestine” to refer to an unknown center associated with the national electoral office (CONSEJO NACIONAL ELECTORAL).
In the case where the television station is found responsible for all the claims it would have to assume severe sanctions including the prohibition of broadcasting any kind of programs for a 90 day period, or even worse for its broadcasting frequency to be revoked. The most likely scenario is for the channel to be fined and shut off the air for a small period of time, after which the programming will have been revised and rescheduled.
The CONARTEL has created a special commission to audit and control contents of TV and radio transmission.