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Colombia to vote on private TV soon

NEW YORK — Three years after the government announced its intentions to privatize Colombian airwaves, the measure will finally come up for a vote in Parliament this spring.

According to the Ministry of Communications, the final decision is expected by June.

The entire national telecommunications net is expected to be placed on the auction block.

Commercial TV in Colombia is unique. Established during a military dictatorship, the state initially demanded strict control over the airwaves; this system continues four decades later.

The state owns the airwaves and, through the federal Radio & TV Institute, Inravision, it grants concessions to two dozen private firms to provide programming on a six-year basis via two national webs. Up for grabs are a total of 7,732.5 commercial hours yearly.

Programmers are currently limited to a maximum of 16 hours weekly. Estimated total yearly ad market via the two channels is $ 75 million; programmers are responsible for programing and commercializing their own timeslots, and product must be 50% national production.

One of the state’s main concerns is to avoid monopolies. Per the ministry, if the number of stations remains at two or three, channel ownership per individual programmer will be restricted to 25%, reducing the present number of Colombian programmers to roughly eight, while if the future number of national webs exceeds four channels, ownership would not exceed 30%.

Station unification efforts began in 1991 when Inravision united various programmers within one channel. These firms have joined efforts to work together: RTI has linked with the programmer Caracol on Channel One, while RCN joined forces with Punch TV on Channel Two.

In addition to the government’s educational channel, programmers are pushing for the institution of another channel in the capital, known as Telecentro or Telebogota.

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