Media legislation

Article 20 of the Colombian Political Constitution of 1991 establishes the freedom of expression and guarantees "to every person, the freedom to express and disseminate their thoughts and opinions, inform and receive truthful and impartial information, and found mass media. These are free and have social responsibility. It is guaranteed the right to rectification under conditions of equity. There will be no censorship.” Moreover, the article establishes the regulations corresponding to the media in the country.

While the law has a positive side, Colombian citizens are free to create and disseminate "truthful and impartial information" within a framework of social responsibility, allowing anyone to create their own news media. According to a study carried out in 2018 by the Universidad Javeriana and the Consejo de Redacción (Editorial Board), of the 914 digital news analysed, 190 were new. However, after a longitudinal analysis that compared the media that were active in the last 8 years, the study found that only 4 out of 10 were still functioning. The fact that there are so many new news media available publicly has resulted in a higher competition over the available advertising money. Large traditional media such as El Tiempo have been facing massive laying off of journalists. Similarly, some complaints are starting to circulate about the fact that anyone with a cell phone is believed to be a journalist.

The subsequent regulatory frameworks, depending on the media, have set procedures for the assignment of permits, frequencies, technical parameters, concession charges, surveillance, control, and administration of the electromagnetic spectrum. Law 1341 of 2009, known as the ICT Law redefines the current Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies (MinTic), to which all public media are ascribed.

The most important regulatory aspects of the traditional mass media are explained below, all after the aforementioned Constitution.

Each media is regulated by a set of laws, all related to article 20 of the constitution. In this way, TV is governed by Law 182 of 1995, which defines the public service, its modalities, and the conditions of free competition, the regulated access to the spectrum and the promotion to the national television industry. This law also created the National Television Commission (CNTV) as an autonomous body for control, regulation, monitoring and promotion. The CNTV tended for a certain independence of the government since this would have a seat, but would not be the majority.

Law 182 of 1995 was modified by Law 335 of 1996, which defined and enabled private television, as well as direct satellite television to the homes. This new regulation raised a model, the "mixed" (public networks, private operators), which subsequently entered into crisis in 1999 as the most important private operators started to operate the bids of private channels. Before this, the government had a monopoly on television channels and rented space to different television operators. Hence the need to issue Law 680 in 2001, which made it possible to distribute the television spaces that were free in public networks at better commercial conditions.

In 2012, Law 1507 was issued with the intention of liquidating the National Television Commission, distributing regulatory powers and creating a new, more agile regulatory body. From there follows the creation of the National Television Authority (ANTV) and the atomisation of the responsibilities previously held by the CNTV in the named ANTV, in the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC), in the National Spectrum Agency (ANE) and in the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce.

In 2018, Colombia became part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). With the intention of accepting the recommendations of this body, in 2018 the government presented the draft Law 152, with which it aims to "modernise the ICT sector" by unifying the same in the Communications Regulation Commission and liquidating the National Authority of Television, a project that is still ongoing in Congress.

Regarding radio, the regulatory framework is subordinated to MinTic by Law 1341 of 2009, which focuses on the definition of frequency allocation procedures, and payment of compensations. Resolution 415 of 2010 pronounces the conditions of the service, its scope and purposes, classification, coverage and concession procedures. This resolution is the regulatory framework document for radio in the country, and classifies it by service management, transmission technology and geographic scope.

The exercise of the written press relies mainly on the aforementioned article 20 of the Colombian Political Constitution, to which Article 73 adds that "journalistic activity shall enjoy protection to guarantee their freedom and professional independence." Other articles such as 74 and 112 protect access to public information of any citizen and the right of the political opposition to access the media on equal terms.

As previously mentioned, for these articles, the Constitutional Court declared Law 71 of 1975 unconstitutional, which posed the journalist's card as a requirement to practice the profession and also regulated journalism in Colombia. For its part, Law 29 of 1994, although repealed and modified in many aspects, still maintains current requirements for the circulation of forms, rectifications and clarifications.

To follow the recommendation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regarding the existence of a single convergent regulator in the field of telecommunications, the Colombian government issued Law 1978 of 2019. A specific section was included that centralized in the Communications Regulatory Commission -CRC- the promotion of the television industry, the promotion of information pluralism and the technical and market regulation of said sector (Art. 19). Previously these functions were exercised by the National Television Authority (ANT).

In this new model, the National Television Authority (ANT) is abolished, and the strategic planning of the audiovisual sector, both technically and in the development of public content and the defense of the viewer, depends on the created Audiovisual Contents Session of the CRC. The CRC is made up of 3 expert commissioners, representatives of different industry sectors.

Although with this Law, television comes to be understood as an active part of what the Colombian Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies (Min TIC) has called “the digital ecosystem”, the definition of television and its different forms of transmission and reception are still regulated by Law 182 of 1995. Such regulation is considered anachronistic since it does not contemplate or update itself in definitions that cover Over the Top (OTT) services.