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Is democratization a business ?

Regina FESTA

06 / 1995

Like most countries in the Americas, Brazil is restructuring its information, communication and telecommunications systems to conform to the demands of globalization. The changes are visible in the stepped-up implementation of technology in the country’s developed areas; in the amendments to the constitution and legislation to bring them in line with the privatization of telecommunications; and in civil society’s bargaining power.

The National Forum on the Democratization of Communication (FNDC)falls in the latter category. It is a movement of telecommunications workers, mainstream media journalists, communication students, artists, intellectuals, women, trade unions, political parties and NGOs. In all, approximately 44 regional committees with the support of social institutions of great importance in Brazil’s recent democratic history are represented in the FNDC.

Initially, the FNDC spearheaded a national debate on the communications monopoly and the significance of TV Globo’s control of the mass media. In the last two years, the reorganization of communication and information systems has raised new challenges. In response, the FNDC proposed the modification of constitutional regulations (to guarantee the setting-up of a National Council on Communications), a law on cable broadcasting (to guarantee media access), a law on democratic information (protecting citizens’ rights in the face of mainstream media)and a community broadcast law (to guarantee the right to communicate locally).

Thanks to organizational progress and the FNDC’s quality data, presently some talks are being held between the Ministry of Communications, legislators, media business people and the sectors represented by the Forum.

Of course, the process becomes more complex with the rapid development of telecommunications, the need for lobbying and the impact that these openings have on society. In the case of Brazil, there is a particular historical twist: the appearance of cultural industries, the development of telecommunications, the legal apparatus, TV, radio, cable TV and pay TV concessions, the use of domestic satellites and international and microwave links, all occurred under the military regime (1960s to 1980s)for the sole benefit of the market. The situation is further complicated by the fact that 98 of the 513 politicians and legislators in the Congress today (including ministers and state governors)own those concessions. That is why, for these people, it is meaningless to talk about public or state communications and to argue for the right to information and public and private funds so that citizen’s can be present within the telecommunications sphere.

Some say that the FNDC’s endeavour is a contemporary version of the fight against Goliath. The truth is there are progressively more negotiations, discussions, research, lobbying, more voices being heard and, most importantly, youth participation is taking part. Though the future is uncertain, knowledge and information are growing by leaps and bounds.

Key words

communication, democratization process, media, right to information, communication system, telecommunications

, Brazil


Regina Festa is a member of the Board of Vidéazimut. Email:

Translated into French and Spanish.


Articles and files

Videazimut, Organizing for Democratic Media in. Clips, 1995 (Canada), 8

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