Community media will soon be growing in Ecuador, as the sector will receive one third of radio and television licenses by 2017.

Ecuador’s media landscape is in for a change. According to the Deutsche Welle Akademie, 22 local radios, part of the community media network CORAPE, successfully applied for a new frequency. By 2017, around 1,400 frequencies will be distributed to radio and TV stations.

CORAPE has been working to provide its members with daily news and program sharing, both for local citizens in urban and rural areas, and for the Ecuadorians living abroad.

“For years, civil society was excluded from broadcasting,” said Jose Miguel Jaramillo, the chairman of CORAPE. “This finally gives us a chance to participate in society.”

This turn of events comes as a breath of fresh air, as the media sector in Ecuador has recently been divided in support for and opposition to the president Rafael Correa, without providing an adequate balance of information. Correa also recently took some measures which impact the flow of media in the country.

In 2013 he signed a Communications Law that hinders freedom of the press, by requiring all information disseminated by media to be “verified” and made “precise” by an external body called SUPERCOM. The law also forbids the repeated dissemination of information that has “the purpose of discrediting or damaging the reputation of a person or entity. This could significantly influence any attempts to report corruption and abuses of power.

The new licenses are then a step towards the democratisation of the media sector in the country. “We’re counting on transparency and equality when it comes to distributing the frequencies,” said Jaramillo. “This is a major victory in our long battle to make the media sector democratic.”. This new development can be seen to echo the recent surge in community media across South America, as it recently has in Brazil.

The new frequencies will be useful in light of Ecuador’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. More than anything though, these newly acquired  spaces will give rural areas and indigenous groups in particular the chance to voice their own opinions and follow their interest, often ignored by traditional media.

By Marta Catalano