"More Owners than Ever" Concentration in the Latin American
Communication Landscape of the 21st Century
Cultural Industries, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Buenos Aires, CABA, Argentina
- *Corresponding Author:
- Guillermo Mastrini
Master's Degree in Cultural Industries
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes
Buenos Aires, CABA, Argentina
Tel: +54911 4061-5635
Received date: Feb 26, 2019; Accepted date: Mar 07 2019; Published date: Mar 14, 2019
Citation: Mastrini G. “More Owners than Ever” Concentration in the Latin American Communication Landscape of the 21st Century. Global Media Journal 2019, 17:32.
Copyright: © 2019 Mastrini G. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Global Media Journal
This article examines the process of concentration of communication media ownership in Latin America during the first 15 years of the 21st century. It includes an overview of the various segments and main indicators, and a comparison of industries and countries as background for identifying trends. Building on previous studies of the communication and telecommunication media landscape of Latin America, this article introduces for the first time a comparative historical series that enables understanding the subject matter in more depth and with improved documentation. This study includes data from five Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico. This article analyzes to what extent the concentration is a widespread process in Latin America. Even though the effects of concentration on the diversity of opinions and cultural options deserve further scrutiny, documentation on how concentration has strengthened provides an empirical basis to sustain the debates around such diverse effects.
Convergence; Latin America; Media
In the 20th century, cultural industries shifted towards a
market orientation in an unprecedented way globally. As
Adorno and Horkheimer  warned early on, in the first half of
the century a substantial part of cultural production embraced
forms of capitalist production. This brought about changes in
the cultural system: on the one hand, the search for
economies of scale leading to financial returns, and on the
other, a larger access of the population to cultural assets and
resources, which until then had been restricted to the well-todo
sectors of society. The process of concentration of
communication media ownership had started before,
particularly in the sphere of print media, with a reduced number of newspapers in the early 20th century, when
advertising became an economic driver of production . The
market orientation of culture, in turn, has led to an
unparalleled increase in the concentration of capital.
Mass access to industrialized culture, the expansion of mass
media – in particular, the audiovisual sector--, and
concentration of ownership in an economy of scale are all
traits of the 20th century. For some authors , the main
concern, which is resumed by this study, had to do with the
fact that the concentration of ownership was viewed as a
symptom of concentration of power, and the assumption that
concentrated power undermines the foundations of
The 21st century has seen an escalation of this complexity,
coupled with a profound and pervasive technological
transformation. No sector of industrialized culture is in
essence similar to the previous century—whether it is in the
breadth of access and distributed services, or in the
infrastructures used to produce and convey content, or the
marketing strategies and the share in market revenues, or the
relationship with users and the work processes for organizing
In Latin America, these processes coexist with a
socioeconomic gap in a highly unequal region of the world. In
particular, communication media in Latin America, which have
played a leading role in the process of cultural modernization,
have followed a commercial logic of operation with strong de
facto political conditionings. Indeed, Latin American media
outlets adopted from the beginning a model that combined
mass access to radio and TV (papers were for the elites, with
partial exceptions in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay) with a
commercial model funded by advertising and highly
concentrated in large cities .
The levels of economic and geographic concentration in the
media sector of Latin American are higher than in Europe and
the USA. A recent study led by Eli Noam  found that two
companies operating in the region are among the world’s ten
largest: Telefónica, ranked fifth, and América Móvil, in the
tenth position. These companies started their accelerated expansion in the 1990s and posed a challenge for the large
groups of traditional media in the region. However, media
groups also have global relevance: Televisa plays a role in
Mexico’s eight percent share in global content exports, while
Globo helps Brazil achieve its one percent share of global
content exports. The income of telecommunication
companies, however, exceed by several orders of magnitude
those of media companies. The connivance of interests
between regulating and regulated entities and the lack of
checks and balances in the form of plural public services have
aggravated the situation in the region.
In recent years, the issue of media concentration has drawn
more attention in both the political and the academic spheres.
With the advent of the internet and the growth of
convergence between the audiovisual sector and
telecommunications, mergers and acquisitions became
According to Iosifidis , excessive concentration
jeopardizes pluralism and diversity. That is, in activities
associated with communication, information and culture,
concentration processes carry double implications: in addition
to the economic situation, the intangible goods that are the
outcomes of these activities carry a symbolic significance.
Therefore, concentration and public interest cannot be
dissociated from the analysis of conformation of
communication media systems and the industries that produce
and distribute information and entertainment at massive
At present, the debate around concentration has become
increasingly complex due to the mainstreaming of the internet,
which on the one had enables an exponential multiplication of
the messages conveyed, and on the other enables global
companies such as Facebook and Google, which dominate
growing shares of global industry revenues (via advertising), to
thrive. Noam  has summarized the new debate in the
following terms: for some, the power of media conglomerates
has never been more important, while for others, the Internet
has brought about an open attitude and diversity.
To study the centralization of capital in the industry, it is
necessary to consider at least two complementary dimensions:
on the one hand, market operation and concentration ratio
analysis, and on the other, to what extent to which the process
of concentration affects the circulation of messages and social,
political and cultural pluralism. The latter has been mainly
addressed by communication sciences, while the former has
become a late subject matter for some economists.
In this section, to provide a theoretical context for this
analysis, the tensions existing in the approach to
concentration are described from the theoretical and
ideological perspectives that have nurtured the debate.
As Just  has pointed out, tensions between the liberal
school and models of public interest or social values have led to ideological battles denoting a division between the
supporters of market efficiency and the advocates for public
action to achieve the goals of a communication policy. They
also underline the different conceptions of media systems: are
they basic institutions for debate, cohesion and public trust or,
on the contrary, are they like any other type of company? In
short, the main conflict is about economic-mercantile and
non-economic-mercantile values. With convergence, these
principles have deepened the discussion on the convenience
or inconvenience of having a specific regulation in the
communication sector to curb concentration.
While some argue that the pervasiveness of information
made available by the new platforms makes specific regulation
unnecessary , others believe that concentration is on the
rise  and should be limited, since the domination of a
culture and information sector by one company (or a small
group of companies) represents an accumulation of power
that influences the decisions and opportunities of the rest of
the social actors .
In turn, the historical divergence between regulatory
traditions in media and telecommunications hinders the
achievement of objectives of public interest; therefore,
cultural and social values may be undermined, resulting in an
overall reduction of media pluralism  when only the
variable of market efficiency is considered.
As Just  indicates, there are diverse regulatory traditions
in the field of media that are based on the particular role of
media as public opinion influencers. The established
protections can be interpreted as a government restriction on
the freedom of expression (censorship), or as an obligation to
regulate with the goal to guarantee the pluralism of the media
(control of concentration). The contrast refers to negative and
positive views of freedom of expression.
For Baker , the justification of a specific regulation that
controls the ownership of communication systems - which,
with its ups and downs, exists throughout the West -
emphasizes the importance of having diversity of owners to
guarantee a more egalitarian distribution of communication
power, and provide safeguards against the abuse of the power
of the media if these are in a few hands.
On the other hand, Freedman  emphasizes that a
complete analysis of the process that is currently taking place
should include data on the ownership of the media, the
ownership structure of the markets, tables concerning income
and profits, market shares in terms of revenues and audiences,
and concentration levels.
To provide the full picture, it is interesting to review the
different positions on the subject. Any classification attempt
will be somewhat arbitrary. Noam  identifies two schools:
pessimistic or optimistic, and adds that based on research, the
general trend supports the pessimists in relation to an increase
in the concentration of ownership of content-producing
media, and the optimists with regard to the carriers
distinguishes between the liberal tradition and the one
promoting robust public debate. This work includes a third
category, more linked to the criticism of the capitalist system that understands that media ownership concentration is
inherent to the system. In this way, the spectrum includes the
liberal school, which proposes liberalizing the information and
communication market; the pluralist tradition, which
promotes the development of the market but with State
intervention with the aim of limiting the most harmful effects
of concentration; and the critical positions, which give an
ideological reading to the phenomenon of concentration, since
they consider the media a mechanism for legitimizing the
conditions of existence based on the exploitation of man by
One of the most radical theses linked to the idea of a free
market is that of Adam Thierer , who proposes that
criticisms of media concentration are based on true myths. In
the information society, says the author, there would be an
abundance of information, so the concentration of ownership
would not imply a reduction of information options, especially
from technological developments. A similar position is
endorsed by Benjamin Compaine, who affirms that there is no
empirical evidence on the effects of the concentration of
property in reducing the diversity of the content offered by the
media . In recent years, studies in economics have shown
greater interest in the functioning of media systems, in step
with the growing importance of communication in the global
economy. In this regard, Rennhoff and Wilbur  developed a
proposal to relate diversity and concentration to econometric
models. Cunningham and Alexander  present a numerical
model of positive equilibrium between the number of
companies in the broadcasting industry and the welfare of
The set of authors and traditions that tend to be grouped as
"pluralist" and are framed in the need to promote a "robust
public debate" is broad and very diverse. As Gillian Doyle 
observes, there are two logics to address the issue of
concentration. On the one hand, the economic or industrial
arguments that tend to favor a more liberal approach to the
problem, with inclinations to allow levels of concentration. On
the other, Doyle studies the positions that are concerned with
society and citizens, political power, political pluralism and
Although his position shares some of the questions raised
from the more economic perspective of the liberal tradition,
Noam  finds that most media industries have experienced a
gradual but steady increase in concentration in recent
decades. According to his research, first of the US market and
then of several other countries, the media sector still shows
concentration indicators that are lower than those of the
telecommunication sector, although the gap has been reduced
in recent decades. His empirical studies justify a moderate
intervention of the State to avoid an even greater
According to Freedman , a pluralistic perspective on
property proposes that the media should articulate the widest
possible range of perspectives to allow citizens to search and
be guided by as much information as possible. The regulation
of concentration is necessary to break an unacceptable accumulation of power that distorts or limits the possibility of
the media to reach that goal.
Finally, the critical school - some of whose authors have
points of contact with the philosophy of "robust public
debate" - has denounced the processes of concentration of
property. In a pioneering work, Ben Bagdikian 
demonstrates how media owners promote their values and
interests. Their interference in the editorial line can be
indirect, through the influence of the editors and selfcensorship,
or direct, when the rewriting or deletion of text is
requested. Along the same line, more recently, Robert
McChesney  warned about the risks of global
communication concentration, across historical national
boundaries. The logic of the market and convergence leads to
a global oligopoly of media in the process of integration with
other information and communication activities, says
McChesney. Fuchs and Mosco , taking up the value of the
Marxist theory for communication studies, highlight how the
concentration of ownership plays a fundamental role in the
process of capital accumulation.
In Latin America, studies of the concentration of media
ownership have been mostly influenced by the last two
schools. During the 1970s, the concentration of ownership
took a considerable part of the research agenda, with the
pioneering works of Pasquali, Mattelart and Muraro [19-21].
Following a period of low production, in the late 20th century
studies in this field were resumed in Latin America, as Miguel
de  has shown.
Several authors [6-8] agree that it is extremely difficult to
develop a single method of measurement capable of
accurately weighing the economic and socio-political power of
media companies. Furthermore, the task of developing a
consistent methodological approach to competition and
pluralism is increasingly complicated by the challenge of
convergence that blurs the borders between the different
sectors. Metrics based on economic criteria used in the
industrial economy (and outlined below) are not completely
adequate to quantify the levels of concentration in the media
industry, given that they cannot account for the integral
impact of the media on culture, society and politics, let alone
in a framework of conglomerate convergence with
telecommunications and the Internet.
Given this situation, Just  stresses that the double
function of the media as economic and cultural asset creates a
conflict of values for public policy, since it must safeguard
competition, on the one hand, and ensure pluralism, on the
other. Due to this, Just proposes a series of issues to consider
in defining an adequate instrument to analyze the
concentration of media ownership:
• Study when the traditional indicators used by economic
studies to measure concentration can be applied in the
• Analyze which is the most relevant market in the
communication sector in an increasingly convergent
• Consider how much diversity of media exists and how it
can be quantified.
• Investigate what kind of market structures cause certain
types of content and effects on public opinion.
• Weigh the combined market power of the companies
comprised in multimedia groups and their effect on media
Iosifidis  proposes combining different types of
measurement as an approximation to a good method, since a
single mechanism cannot capture both the quantity and
quality of consumption, and determine the influence exerted
and the access to the diversity of content offered. Even though
we agree with Just and Iosifidis in the strategic orientation of
research about information and communication
concentration, there are limitations of data availability in
different industries and countries, resources and capacities
that must be considered when planning such a study.
Given this limitation, Iosifidis  states that the sales and
profits of large companies can be an adequate indicator of
their power and reveal their ability to win markets compared
to the rest. And he adds that political and economic diversity
and economic power are often connected, since the latter
determines control over supply. Based on these premises, it is
possible to assume that the criteria used to measure market
power can be used, at least in principle, to infer the influence
of the media.
The core of the issue is that it is hard to assign a precise and
general level to diversity, pluralism and concentration to make
them attributes of media systems compatible with the public
interest. Markets that tend towards concentration due to their
production demands, due to their costs of entry and
operation, such as the media in convergence processes, may
aspire to develop "moderate competences" in order to
encourage diversity. Their atomization, on the other hand,
would lead, according to Van der Wurff and Van Cuilenburg
, to the "ruinous competition" that would destroy its very
base of functioning.
One problem that the analysis of concentration must deal
with is the definition of "relevant market", because in addition
to the processes of horizontal concentration (control of
different companies in the same link in the value chain of an
industry) and vertical integration (control of different links in
the value chain of an industry), information and
communication activities are increasingly experiencing
processes of conglomerate concentration, as a result of
These processes express the crossing of activities among
different sectors, so the position of a group can be dominant in
a media system not only because of its control of one of the
industries, but also because it constitutes a barrier to entry in
several of them, as a result of its multimedia expansion.
Examples of this are the bundling of programming/contents,
the anti-competitive practices in the "tied sales" of convergent services (triple play, for example), or the bundling of
When it comes to concentration, different variables come
• Concentration of ownership (horizontal, vertical or
• Concentration of income.
• Concentration of audiences/subscriptions.
• Centralization or accumulation of power.
It is difficult to find effective methodologies that allow
quantifying all these variables at the same time and weighing
them together. The most commonly used methods usually
combine the first three dimensions-concentration of
ownership, concentration of income and concentration of
The difference among methodologies is indicative of a wide
range of variables to be factored in when studying
concentration. Furthermore, it is fundamental to consider the
possibility of obtaining the essential data that is required to
develop each of the methods.
The following are the main methods, as explained by
Albarran  and others:
• Concentration ratio (CR): It is used to measure one or
more of the first three variables, as it quantifies the
audience concentrated by the first, the first four or the first
eight companies in each market in relation to the total of
said market. This method is also used to measure the share
of revenues of the first, the first four or the first eight
companies in a market in relation to the total revenues of
• Lorenz curve: It is a graphical expression of the distribution
of income in a given market in relation to a limited number
of companies. As Albarran points out, the Lorenz curve can
only be useful for measuring a limited number of
companies, and its effectiveness is also limited, although it
is a valid method for measuring the concentration of
wealth in a country, for example.
• Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI): It is a measure of the
concentration of income and audience/subscriptions. This
method, used for example by the Antitrust Division of the
US Department of Justice, adds the squares of the relative
sizes of the companies in a given market.
• Noam index: This researcher criticizes the previous systems
and points out that the concentration indices in general do
not account for the smaller companies, nor explain how
the market is distributed within CR4. For its part, the HHI
cannot account for the diversity existing in the market. For
this reason, he proposes combining the HHI with the
number of existing voices. The Noam Index takes into
account the number of voices available as it seeks to
combine market power (HHI) and pluralism (number of
voices). Noam’s proposal consists of dividing the HHIby the
square root of the number of existing media.
In Latin America, concentration studies that compare the
situation in several countries adopted the CR4 methodology as a result of the poor transparency of the communication
companies' economic reporting and the consequent scarcity of
consistent data on the income of each sector and the
participation of companies in them. Regarding audience
statistics, there are no official measurements. To implement
indicators such as the HHI or the Noam Index, accurate
information should be available from all players in all markets,
which in Latin America is not yet possible.
Based on the above, this article focuses on the
concentration of revenues and audiences of communication
systems in Latin America. Therefore, it uses as a benchmark
the market power of the four main operators in each market
(CR4). This indicator shows the economic power of the large
groups in the communication sector.
The main objective is to measure the concentration of
communication markets, and to provide an empirical basis so
that future work with more complex and complementary
methodologies can analyze further the consequences of
concentration in terms of restricting pluralism. The research
includes a historical analysis of the evolution of concentration
in five key countries (due to their economic and demographic
importance) in the region, which helps to measure the most
general trends present in Latin America in the first 15 years of
the 21st century.
The inclusion of a historical series has, in turn, its nuances.
Given that there are no official aggregate figures available
from either the state or the companies, the information has
been obtained from various sources: partial reports from
government agencies, reports from financial institutions,
academic articles, non-governmental organization and
journalistic reports, and annual reports from the companies
that are listed on the stock market, among others.
Each has its own method of data gathering, usually different
from the rest. This entails the risk that the data used come
from different indicators, which might distort certain
comparisons. This situation occurs both when comparing
countries and when comparing data from different years.
Much work has been done to ensure the consistency of all the
data used and processed, as a result of several years of
research leading to the most reliable information.
The expansion of conglomerate groups driving
concentration in the information and communication sector in
Latin America in the 2000-2015 period occurred - paradoxically
- at the same historical moment that a new set of regulations
were introduced, calling for a more active role of the state, and
signaling concentration as a problem of public policy,
particularly between 2004 and 2015.
Few of these public policies were consistent with their
premise and almost none was effective in curbing or lessening
the ownership concentration rates.
Until 2014, there were five major groups operating in the
region with leadership and expansion capacity beyond
geographical boundaries and industrial sectors, namely (in order of importance based on turnover): Telefónica, América
Móvil, Globo, Televisa and Clarín. At that time, the two
telephone companies mentioned ranked much higher than
Globo and Televisa, since their revenues were ten times higher
than those of the multimedia companies from Brazil and
Mexico. These, in turn, doubled the income of Grupo Clarín of
It should be noted that, if only Telefónica and América Móvil
are considered, these groups are present in 18 of the 35
markets analyzed in this research, with shares that reach at
least 30% of the market.
Encompassing the five large conglomerates of the region in
the same, it can be noted that these are present in 28 of the
35 sectors under review. But it can also be seen that the type
of presence is completely different if one considers the
telephone companies or the groups coming from the media
sector. The former show a sequential presence, with a
substantive dominance in pay television, fixed and mobile
telephony, and the provision of internet access services.
The media groups have a more diversified presence, since
they have begun the process of convergence towards the
telecommunications sector (especially Televisa and, outside
the period of this study, Clarín), but with limited participation
in their territory of origin. In this way, the telephone
companies are international or pan-regional groups with a
strong presence in the region and a turnover far higher than
that of the large media groups.
For their part, traditional media have taken advantage of
their ability to influence the political agenda to promote their
interests and start the journey towards full diversification
(presence in all or almost all information and communication
markets) before the telephone companies.
The outcome of this dispute with clearly differentiated
interests between media and telephone companies will
determine the evolution of communication concentration in
Each of the countries surveyed in this article responds in its
communication market to variables that combine specific
social, economic and political-regulatory histories with a
regional framework of notable similarities and a global context
of technological transformation that determines the evolution
of markets and the endogenous tendencies. It is a combination
between the singular configuration of the information and
communication industries of a national culture, and the
progressive passage towards the intertwining of processes
beyond the borders of each country.
The main groups that operate in Latin America are, in most
cases, of Latin American origin, with the exception of Spanish
capital in Telefónica or American capital in Direct TV.
The general trend of increasing levels of concentration and
convergent conglomeration of information and
communication activities is reflected in Figure 1, which shows
the evolution of CR4 in the first fifteen years of the 21st
century in the largest Latin American economies.
Figure 1: Evolution of concentration, CR4, 2000-2014.
In almost all of the surveyed industries and in almost all
countries, the levels of domination of the main groups were strengthened. Given that the public policies outlined in some
of the cases included in the study have not altered such a
trend, it is therefore considered structural. Table 1 shows the
data used for Figure 1. Six of the seven markets analyzed in the
research are taken, since the data corresponding to Internet
providers in the year 2000 is not accurate enough to perform
an adequate study (at that time, access to the Internet in Latin
America was very low). The columns include two indicators per
country in each sector. First, the CR4 reached in each market in
2014. The percentage column indicates how much the
concentration has evolved between 2000 and 2014, taking as a
baseline 100, the data corresponding to the CR4 of the year
2000. It is noted that for the calculation of the averages the
data for Brazilian print media have not been recorded, since
the increase of 169% in its level of concentration may be due
to different ways of collecting the data between 2000 and
2014, that is, to a methodological problem.
Table 1: Evolution of CR4 (concentration ratio) in Latin America 2000-2014.
||Newspapers CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
||Radio CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
||Free-to-air TV CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
||Pay TV CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
||Fixed Tel. CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
||Mobile Tel. CR4 2014
||% variation 2000-2014
The data shown in Table 1 allow us to draw several
important conclusions for this work. Free-to-air television (CR4
88.8%), pay TV (CR4 91.4%), fixed telephony (CR4 89.85%) and
mobile telephony (CR4 99%) are sectors with such a
concentration level in the hands of the four main operators
that these markets can clearly be classified as oligopolistic. The
printed newspapers and radio sectors have indicators with
lower concentration levels, but this is where CR4 has increased
the most in the 14 years analyzed. With the exception of fixed
telephony, an inversely proportional relationship can be
established: the greater the CR4, the lower the growth of the
concentration. This makes sense, in fact, since the markets are
so saturated in their oligopolistic trend that they no longer
admit any more concentration. In any case, it should be noted
that there has not been a de-concentration process despite
the regulatory activity of the state(Argentina) or the
promotion of competition through both regulatory and market
mechanisms (Mexico). Fixed telephony is the exception; it
should be noted, however, that it is a market of declining
importance, and in several countries the number of installed
lines has decreased.
If one considers the evolution of concentration by countries
and not by markets, it can be seen that there are two countries
where the concentration has increased notably: Brazil (52.6%)
and Mexico (38.7%). One country, Colombia, has had an
increase in the average concentration, with 19.5%, while
Argentina (9.7%) and Chile (8.3%) have more moderate results.
When retrieving research data from the year 2000 (Author,
2006), it is key to remember that at that time it was found that
the largest markets (Brazil and Mexico) had lower
concentration indicators. Also in the analysis of the evolution
of the concentration by country, an inversely proportional
relationship can be seen: the less concentrated the countries
were in the year 2000, the more the increase in concentration
over the last 14 years.
From the analysis of the changes that have taken place in
terms of concentration both by market and by country, it turns
out that, even starting from levels of concentration higher
than those of other regions of the world, concentration in
Latin America is not only very high but also tends to increase.
If the ongoing convergence process is considered, which
encourages the disappearance of previous barriers between markets, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the
levels of concentration -this time, enhancing a clear
conglomerate tendency will continue to grow.
If the different sectors are analyzed separately, from 2000 to
2014, in the various measurements included in the research
carried out by the authors, the trend can be seen in greater
detail. As an example, the cases of free-to-air television
(communication media) and mobile telephony
(telecommunications) are presented.
In the case of the free-to-air television, in every country
there is a decline in consumption, coupled with increased
competition from pay TV with linear programming and, in
recent years, catalog proposals that use the internet as a
platform for distribution and therefore are known as OTT (e.g.,
Although the presence of these offers in Latin America is
lower than in the central countries, this is partly due to the lag
in the provision of fixed and mobile infrastructures ensuring
good levels of Internet connection, and to the lower income
levels of the population. As a result of the latter, large
segments are still unbanked, which restricts the subscription
to some proposals.
Free-to-air TV is one of the most historically concentrated
media. By using the spectrum, a finite and scarce public
resource, and involving costs in an economy that requires
articulating different productive links, television constitutes an
obstacle to the open competition of many operators.
Figure 2 shows the evolution of the concentration ratio in
the five countries. In the case of Brazil, the data corresponding
to the first study (year 2000) was not included, since it had not
considered the network organization of Brazilian television,
something that was corrected in the following works of the
research series on concentration in Latin America developed
by the authors.
Figure 2: CR4 Free-to-air TV.
For its part, mobile telephony has grown to become the
main telecommunications service in Latin America over the
last decade, with very different modes of access by the
population as a consequence of the socioeconomic fracture
that is distinctive of the region.
Thus, more than 75% of existing lines operate through
prepaid cards, while only a minority has more robust
subscriptions and services such as 4G. Since 2010, on average, mobile telephony has become the main source of income for
the sector, and the main carriers have geared their corporate
strategies to leverage its potential. In this way, serving as a
channel for communication and mobile connectivity, mobile
telephony has become the main revenue driver of all the
information and communication segments.
Figure 3 indicates that mobile telephony has the highest
level of concentration possible in almost all the countries
Figure 3: CR4 Mobile telephony.
After a first phase in which the services were launched, their
subsequent consolidation was contemporary with the
concentration of the sector that, in general, corresponds to
high levels of cartelization, leading to scarcely competitive
dynamics in the prices and subscription offers for end users.
Now, if instead of taking as benchmark the concentration
ratio CR4 and measuring the share of the first four operators
of each communication segment, CR2 were used (see Figure
4), that is, the incidence of the two main companies, the
outcome would be an exacerbation of the previously
Figure 4: CR2 Comparison, 2014.
That is, it would be evident that in the most populated
countries and most robust economies of Latin America, real
competition in the communication ecosystem is very scarce,
since there are virtual duopolies in almost all industries other
than radio (the medium of lesser economic importance).
Indeed, the communication concentration levels in Latin
America are so high that the CR4 method-which is suitable for
other regions of the planet-is too loose a fit.
The sealing of concurrence has a double appeal to public
policy. First, access to media, and information and
communication networks, is denied on equal terms to
numerous actors in society, thus eroding their right to freedom
of expression. Second, competition is structurally distorted
and freedom of trade is affected (Figure 4).
On the other hand, these new indicators on the evolution of
concentration in the region show that the opportunities that
the so-called digital revolution presents by breaking down part
of the production chain --fundamentally the links of
distribution, exhibition and consumption of content and
communications--, do not bring an opening of markets. An
opening of the markets had been the general assertion of
political and advertising claims, though it does not occur in practice. Nor does it allow the entry of new players to expand
the participation of these sectors.
Conversely, concentration has intensified over the first 15
years of the 21st century, reinforcing the endogamic nature of
this process, given that any potential entrants in the pay
television market, for example, come from the
telecommunications segment and vice-versa. These indicators
are of relevance when it comes to evaluating how mass
communication and information is produced and circulated
socially. As Mendel, et al.  point out, “In most of the
countries, for an important sector of the population traditional
media (television, radio and newspapers) still represent the
main source of news and information source on current
The challenge for the continuity of studies on the
concentration of media ownership in Latin America, which
have included the telecommunications sector in the early
research undertaken by the authors of this paper, has to do
with adding as an indicator the digital networks as well, with a
view to measure and understand the convergent
transformation of the communication ecosystem.
Conclusions and Closing Remarks
The first 15 years of the 21st century in Latin America show
that the processes of concentration of the communication
activities surveyed in this work have spread and are of a
conglomerate nature, with corporations boasting a dominant
position in several of the media that, until the last decade of
the last century, generally remained segregated. While
concentration then was fundamentally horizontal and showed
movements of vertical integration --with leadership in each
industry striving to integrate the different links of the value
chain in the same business structure--, for more than a decade
now the expansive trend of the most powerful conglomerates
has prevailed, encompassing several activities at the same
In a historically concentrated structure, boosted by the
absence of public policies to prevent the excessive dominance
of a few groups in the media scene, and in contrast with the
central capitalist countries, in Latin America the effect of the
inclusion of telecommunications in the media reinforces the trend towards concentration and an oligopolistic configuration
of a few conglomerates with regional scope.
This research reveals that the various industries show levels
of concentration that is incompatible with the objective of
promoting diversity, which is, in turn, a public policy mandate.
Considered in isolation, each sector shows the absolute
dominance of four or even fewer groups, while the whole
picture is not very encouraging from the perspective that
seeks to achieve a greater plurality of owners.
In turn, studies on the concentration of ownership of media
and communication industries face the challenge of
assimilating the metamorphosis of convergence, as well as its
unfinished nature (given that these are ongoing processes),
which prevents us from making assertive conclusions about
their evolution. In addition, in Latin America this type of
studies is cut across by the challenge of dealing with a sector
that, in general, lacks reliable statistics from state sources, and
in which companies are reluctant to disclose basic data on the
functioning of the markets.
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