Even though Colombia has more than 200 radio stations, more than 50 television channels and more than 50 newspapers, there is little media pluralism. The Media Ownership Monitor 2015, jointly carried out with the Colombian Association for Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, FECOLPER) from August to November, reveals some of the reasons:
- Concentration is especially high for TV and Radio. The biggest four television channel (Caracol, RCN, City TV y RCN Telenovelas) concentrate 77.2% of the audience. The most important public channels (Canal Uno) has 2.1% audience share. The radio channels belonging to the three biggest media companies ( Organización Ardila Lülle, Grupo Prisa, Organización Radial Olímpica) sum up concentrate 73% of the audience. The print media belonging to the most important group in this sector (Casa Editorial El Tiempo) account for 31% of readers, while the second group (National Media Group, GNM) reaches 30% of readers just with the popular newspaper Q'hubo. Looking across markets (TV, print, radio) three corporations (Adrilla Lülle, Santo Domingo Sarmiento Angulo) accumulate 57% of the market. The eight biggest companies even accumulate 78 % of the audience share in these three markets – which shows their potentially high influence on public opinion and their economic power to run the media sector.
- Media intertwined with business empires and politics. Colombian media companies participate in other economical business sectors as well as in politics. This puts independency of the editorial lines of media outlets at risk as well as it reinforces self-censorship of the journalists. Media groups and companies also often financially support electoral campaigns. Their support for one candidate then again has influence on the media coverage of those elections. On the regional level, this phenomenon seems to work as a trait – the winning candidate puts the public advertising into the media outlets, which supported his election.
- No clear regulation for distribution of public advertising or licensing regime. This is only possible as there is no regulation on the distribution of public advertising nor on transparency of the spending. Distribution is up to the governmental institutions. A particular practice that established due to the lack of regulation is that smaller companies have to lease their radio channels to big companies – because they don’t create enough income to sustain their channels otherwise. This economic pressure for small media outlets developed as the advertising market is concentrated and geared towards the big media companies. This phenomenon leads to a worsening of the situation of pluralism and audience concentration especially at the regional level.
- Media market remains intransparent. Market data is not publicly available. Audience shares are investigated by private companies, which only hand them to their customers.
In the RSF press freedom index, Colombia ranks 134 out of 180 countries in 2016.