Unlike the press, or even digital media, radio and television are subject to more control, since the radioelectric space is owned by the Salvadoran state – the Telecommunications Act establishes that concessions will be auctioned and renewable, even though not automatically, for up to 20 years. On May 2016 the Telecommunications Act was reformed, with two highlights that directly impact the Salvadorian media landscape: The first is the acknowledgement of the Communitary Radiodifusion; the second one enables the regulator to enact in the short run the National Plan of Digital Terrestrial Television, which will constitute one of the first steps to advance towards the digitalisation of television and radio in the country.
The radial space is divided into frequencies: AM and FM. The former has 67 concessions allocated, while the FM is more numerous, with 245 concessions of radio spaces, according to a 2014 report on the concessions, from the General superintendence of Electricity and Telecommunications (SIGET), the national entity in charge of radioelectric spectrum regulation.
It should be noted that most of these concessions in both frequencies, have a regional and local reach. Many of these radio stations, especially in AM, have been licensed or are under management of religious groups, particularly, Roman Catholic and evangelicals known as Pentecostals.
According to the Latin American survey made in 2013 by Latinbarómetro, radio and television are the main means of entertainment and information for most Central Americans. In the Salvadoran case, according to the same report, people devote an average of 3.3 hours a day to listen to radio.
Despite its popularity, radio is not the main recipient of the advertising pattern, according to a study by the Superintendency of competition, developed in 2016. According to the report, 41 percent of the total advertising revenues for media in El Salvador are allocated to open television, 29 percent to the press and 11 percent to radio.
The radio market is controlled by business groups that are also dedicated to open television: the Telecorporation Salvadorian Group (TCS), Megavisión Group and AS Media. They are not the groups with the most radios stations, but the economically more profitable ones, taking into consideration that they are conglomerate owners of radios and chains of open television. The report of the Superintendency of competition points to these three groups as the main ones within the radio spectrum of El Salvador.
The other important groups, by the number of radios and by their national scope, are Group Radio Stereo, owner of five radio stations; Corporación YSKL, owner of one of the most listened-to information and sports chains in the country; Radio Corporación, with six other radio stations – mostly juveniles; Samix Group, owned by former Salvadoran president Antonio Saca.
The case of the former president Saca is particularly interesting. Arrested for numerous cases of corruption in 2016, he was also questioned for maintaining the concessions of his radios despite being a public official, something that the Salvadoran Constitution expressly prohibits.
The radio space also has a portion for community radios, which are tuned into small community spaces. The Association of radios and participatory programs of El Salvador (ARPAS) has 22 concessions to operate in many Salvadoran municipalities. It should be noted that most community radios owned by ARPAS use the same frequency, 92.1 FM, a frequency of national reach acquired with international cooperation funds as the only way to access the radio electric spectrum.
Some organs of the Salvadoran state, such as the central government, through the Presidency of the Republic, and the Legislature (Congress), also have radio frequencies, albeit with little popularity. Public Radio, National Radio, has traditionally operated more as a government propaganda agency that as a means of informative communication.