December: good tidings and citizenship rights?

December has finally landed upon us. The time of good tidings, when stress levels go on a steady incline for the next twenty-five days, when we’re supposed to put our bitterness on the shelves and embrace the good cheer.

For Brazil, it signals something a little different this year: this month will see its first National Conference on Communication, where policy makers and civil society actors will meet and discuss the future of the country’s media and communications system. It is hoped that Communications: A Means for Building Citizenship Rights in the Digital Era will provide non-state level actors with the chance to have an input in policy-making.

But why the big fuss? Well, Brazil’s media system could do with a spring clean. It remains highly concentrated in the hands of under ten families, with the biggest player being Rede Globo. Prominent journalist Altamiro Borges has likened the system to a dictatorship, not entirely out of the realms of possibility given Brazil’s past and the legacies of 1964-85 being carried over into the present. And, while the blogosphere is booming, community initiatives are expanding, and civil society actors are placing ever more pressure on the federal government to diversify the system, the fight for media democratisation is only taking its earliest of steps.

Numerous proposals will be thrust in the Lula government’s face this month, including strengthening Brazil’s public service broadcasting, fine-tuning the elusive regulatory framework, expanding former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil’s programme of digital inclusion and investing more in alternative and community sectors. However, the ghost of cynicism is also following the Conference, with the 2010 elections and 2016 Olympics being likely to overshadow any changes in the communications system, made worse by the fact that communication is seldom recognised as a human right in South America’s largest country.

So, December has arrived and the waiting-and-seeing is almost over…for now.

– For more info (in Portuguese) of this month’s events, click here.

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