Ecuador: Grant of TV license to indigenous causes both joy and división

Orsetta Bellani, El Reportero (Photo: O.B.)

After years of struggle, six indigenous Ecuadorian journalists managed to launch Micc TV, a television channel that now broadcasts four hours a day for a large audience. This way, the dream of the Indigenous and Campesino Movement of Cotopaxi (Micc), which integrates the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), became true. The success of Micc Tv is also symbolic: their antenna is next to the commercial channels and those of the state in the city of Latacunga.
Orsetta Bellani, contributor to El Reportero, met Jose Venegas, indigenous communicator Micc, who works at Micc TV.

How and when did Ecuador’s indigenous movements managed to get their own media?
The Ecuadorian indigenous movement was gaining ground at the beginning of the 90s, when the country began the uprising against discrimination towards indigenous people, who weren´t even allowed to walk on the street. We won recognition, not only rights but also important spaces of political participation: we reached municipalities, prefectures and county councils, and began to visualize a multicultural country.

Then, native peoples’ media started to emerge, but they were all in the church that used several strategies for deciding who could and could not talk, so as to isolate the organized sectors. So we wanted the indigenous movement to have its own media, in order to strengthen its organization.

How and when did Micc TV emerge?

In 2009, after five years of struggle, the Superintendent of Communications gave us a community channel frequency, but in their letter they said we had to install it in just sixty days. We were lucky because we found a technician from a national channel, who could build Micc Tv within sixty days and with all the technical characteristics of a channel of any company. In addition, with the support of the United Nations Fund on Indigenous we could buy a transmitter, a camera, a DVD player and a TV.

What kind of programs do you offer?

In the beginning, we broadcasted two or three hours a day, but gradually people and associations began to send videos and reports. Now finally we’re on air 24 hours a day. We believe it is important to have a different program: we air documentaries other channels would not, alternative Latin American, European and American cinema for people to think differently. We have two newscasts, one in Kitchwa and one in Spanish, food sovereignty and traditional crops programs, a sports program and a music show, as well as a program that seeks organizational and political strengthen.

How big is your audience?

Our channel covers a population of 600 thousand inhabitants, according to rating studies – which are not ours but from the major television networks – we are second in audience in the area. We are always linked to organizational, indigenous and social processes, and we have also involved the mestizo population, we don’t want to be an indigenous channel.

What is the attitude of commercial and state media towards Micc TV?

At first we were discriminated as the channel of the Indians, then they began to worry because we started to make a quality product, with smart programming, with a good signal and a good reception from the people. They never thought that we could produce quality news, but now we are imposing the media agenda, modifying the schedule of the other channels. We are dangerous to them.

We have a mobile unit we rented to commercial channels and we do not have to stay small only because we are indigenous, but we can do something big. In June 2013, the Ecuadorian parliament approved the Communications Law to democratize access to the media.

What is your opinion about the new law?

Unfortunately, the new Communications Law does not have many inclusive things for indigenous peoples. It is true that it recognizes community communication, but it only contemplates the existence of low-power stations.

In addition, the law stipulates that it’s the state that finances the media and staff training, limiting the freedom of peoples. In fact, relations between the state and indigenous movements in Ecuador are not good, and now the Correa government is bidding stations to organizations that support their management.

So this law is not a great achievement, because it doesn´t access to the media to all organizations and breaks organizational processes. It is a law that divides indigenous peoples.

Article published by El Reportero on november 2013:

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