With an average consumption of 240 minutes per day, television is the favorite media channel for Colombians. In terms of diffusion, 91 percent of families have at least one TV and the public signal reaches 92 percent of the Colombian territory. Two private channels (Caracol and RCN) dispute the popularity with 80 percent of the national audience. Nevertheless, since 2008, there have been different attempts to implement a third channel by different private enterprises to increase pluralism, but laws guaranteeing free competition have not allowed for it to be established. The Communications Regulation Commission is in charge of the telecommunications, television and postal services market in the country.
During 1954, TV was introduced in Colombia by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla and had an audience and educational focus. The first educational programmes were recorded and transmitted in 1954 and sought to reduce illiteracy. However, this first programme, which was based on a German model of education, was soon cancelled and resumed in 1961. The telecentres were established, rooms where communities received classes from first to fifth grade. In 1955, the TVC or Commercial Television Company was launched with the support of radio partners RCN and Caracol.
In 1970, the Minister of Education, through the Popular Progress Training project, taught social classes on Channel 11, which today is Señal Colombia. Several educational programmes were very popular in the country, among them Natularia, Professor Yarumo and Francisco the Mathematician, which have framed the effort to use this source with social purposes. In this attempt, a notable example is the series Banderas en Marte (Flags on Mars), a co-production between Señal Colombia channel, the National University and the District Education Secretariat. It is a documentary magazine that seeks to promote civic participation among young people from marginal neighborhoods. The series was not only selected by UNESCO as one of the best programmes for young people at the time, it also received the Maeda Prize of Japan in 2006.
There are five national channels, two private channels (RCN and Caracol) and three public ones administered by the State and financed by a special fund system: Señal Colombia, Canal Institucional and Canal Uno. Regionally there are eight public channels and locally 43 operators, of which 42 non-profits and the City TV channel which is for profit. In addition, roughly 12 religious channels integrate the television offer at national and departmental level. Some of them are: Cristovision, Sonríe TV, Nosotros TV, Gospel Planet and Oasis TV.
According to the General Media Study of 2017 the most watched channels in Colombia are Caracol, RCN, TNT, City TV, Fox, Win Sports, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel and Fox Sports. Besides, and according to the latest rating study, the most watched programmes are: La venganza de Analía, Amor sincero, Noticias Caracol (7pm), Tres Milagros, El General Naranjo, Diomedes el Cacique de La Junta, Omer, Lazos de sangre and Corazón indomable. Prime time reality shows and soap operas are the programmes with greater reach in Colombian television, but because of Covid-19 the programs broadcast are pre-recorded productions and repetitions of successful novels. Due to the norms of social distancing, it has not been possible to record reality shows or new novels. National productions prevail in prime time schedule, but Turkish, Mexican and Brazilian soap operas are also transmitted and have a certain popularity with the audience during afternoons.
In 2016, a General Media Study revealed that young people aged between 12 and 25 years are those who watch more television, since 93.9 percent of them said they use this source. In contrast, the elderly are those who consume the least, with 88.3 percent of viewers.
Colombia is working on the implementation of digital television for all, in an attempt to promote competition, efficiency, effectiveness, flexibility and innovation. Some proposals point out to the use of traditional media such as the digital terrestrial television network. To date, the National Television Authority (ANTV) has launched 3 of the 5 phases of digitalisation planned for Colombia. By 2019, national and regional public channels had a significant increase in audience. The public channels had a 22% growth since 2015 and the regional channels had a 11.4% growth since 2014.
Regarding inclusive television, resolution number 350 by the ANTV legalises the use of access systems for people with disabilities: Closed Caption, subtitling and sign language in Spanish (the official language of the country) are the implemented systems. For the viewer, it is easy to identify these systems, because they are displayed as a box on the screen, where a professional appears and translates by gestures what is being transmitted or letters show in the lower part of the screen. In addition Con Voz (With Voice), especially made for the deaf population and available on all platforms, was one of the most watched soap operas on public television in the country (during the time it was on air).
Given that Colombia’s main conflict is over, television has the mission of creating an audiovisual narrative prepared from the perspective of victims, because the focus has always been on official versions or those from the perpetrator. The fact of including the point of view of those who lived through the conflict is supposed to create the historical memory of war. The idea for public television is to have a leading role in telling these stories and, at the same time, show the causes of the conflict.
Regional channels are operated from a specific area of the country for the population of those localities. Nevertheless, subscription or digital terrestrial television is required to have access from a different place from that specific region. Some examples of this type of channels are Teleantioquia, which transmits from Medellín and has 2,721,400 viewers of which 163,900 are new viewers. Currently, the rating is 0.20 considering that the highest national score is 13.5. Telecaribe broadcasts from Barranquilla and its main audience is wireless homes at the regional level; at national level, it is among the 10 most watched public channels, and has a rating of 0.18. Telecafé transmits from Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda primarily with a rating of 0.05. Telepacifico has a score of 0.20, it broadcasts from Cali to Valle del Cauca and Chocó and it has different contents, but it is mostly dedicated to a family audience. Canal 13 broadcasts to Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Huila, Tolima and others, has a rating of 0.14 and is focused on a youth audience. Lastly, Canal TRO, or Canal de Televisión Regional del Oriente, which transmits for Santander and Norte de Santander, has a reach of 0.05.