By Laura Mallonee
LESS THAN HALF the country trusts the media. Most people consider the mainstream media a bunch of biased hacks who aren’t to be trusted. In this increasingly acrimonious environment, it’s hard to know just what to believe.
You might think I’m referring to the United States. But I’m talking about Argentina.
A handful of major news outlets dominate the country. Broadcasting without a license is illegal. And an alarming number of people simply do not believe what the big networks say. But rather than complain about #fakemedia or retreat into filter bubbles, many Argentinians take to the airwaves to tell their own stories. A small collective called DTL! Comunicacion Popular erects radio towers in largely poor, working class neighborhoods so ordinary citizens can broadcast guerrilla programs for all to hear.
Anita Pouchard Serra spent three years with DTL! Comunicacion Popular. The gritty, intimate photos in her series Communication Is Not a Merchandise offer an almost cinematic look at the collective as it assembles antennas and trains citizen journalists. “The radio is a way to create solidarity and collective action,” Serra says. “It’s an opportunity for them to tell their story.”
Argentina’s media monopoly dates to a 1980 law, passed by the military dictatorship, banning nonprofits and community groups from broadcasting on television or radio. Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tried (and failed) to loosen big media’s grip five years ago, and the press grew even more polarized in the aftermath. Poorer, marginalized communities felt ignored at best and misrepresented at worst. “When you read about slums in the media, it’s always about violence and drugs,” says Serra. “In the radio, they try to show another side. It might good actions performed by neighbors.”
Guerrilla radio and TV stations started popping up in the early 1990s. They grew in popularity during Argentina’s economic collapse in 2001 and the massive protests it fueled. Today, hundreds of communities offer programming, sometimes in indigenous languages like Mapudungun. They play local music, read poetry and discuss issues the mainstream media often gloss over, like police brutality and controversial mining projects. “We don’t have authentic public media in Latin America, so in order to communicate and exercise freedom of expression, communities build their own media,” says Martín A. Becerra, who teaches communication at the University of Buenos Aires. “They express to some extent the vitality of civil society.”…
This article (Argentinians Are So Sick of the Media, They’re Inventing Their Own) was originally published on Wired and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.