Constitutional Process

Battle over the Broadcasts

SANTIAGO – As the campaigns for the April plebiscite heat up, parties seek to reach voters through social media, while the television broadcast between Mar. 27 and Apr. 23 counts as the most accessible platform. The allotment of time to proponents and opponents of a new Constitution has already caused some outrage. Some even speak of “dictatorship.”

Airtime in the upcoming broadcast of the national television board (CNTV) ahead of the April referendum is highly contested. With 2.5 televisions on average in each household, and 54% of voters in the 2017 elections saying the broadcast influenced their decision, airtime is a valuable resource.

CNTV Broadcast

The political campaign for the April plebiscite begins on Feb. 26. Attention has turned to the electoral broadcast which will air daily at 12:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. between Mar. 27 and Arp. 23. Aired via CNTV, the 15-minute broadcast will give equal room to “Apruebo” (Approval) and “Rechazo” (Rejection): seven minutes and 30 seconds. However, the method of allocating time between political parties and independents has caused a stir. Some claim CNTV does not consider independent and civilian groups enough.

Airtime Contested

CNTV requirements state that legally constituted political parties and independent parliamentarians with representation in Congress can partake in the broadcast. Time slots will be allocated based on the number of votes obtained by each party in the 2017 elections. However, this disadvantages independent parties because they lack access to funding and gained fewer votes.  “Somos Chile,” led by leftist Alejandro Guillier, Carlos Bianchi, and Karim Bianchi was allocated only half a second in the broadcast, for example.

“It would have been better to give independent parties and their leaders a reasonable broadcast time of at least 10 seconds, as they are at a disadvantage against political parties. Failing that, they should be given at least the time equal to that of the last political party in the [slot],” Guillier told CNN Chile.

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Voters’ Choice

Election watchdog Tricel suggested political parties should give civil organizations a portion of their broadcast time, as the latter receive around one-third of the time parties get. This was criticized as a way of forcing civil organizations to align with political parties to participate in the campaign when they have the right to remain independent.

Economist and former presidential candidate Alfredo Sfeir said the broadcast was a “communication dictatorship,” arguing citizens and independent politicians should get the same time as political parties, if not more. More importantly, as the civil organizations claim to be direct voices of the people, the leaders are arguing that they should be given a decent amount of time to share their views.

In response to being allocated three seconds in the broadcast, the leader of the Republican Party, José Antonio Kast, released a three-second video saying “rechazo, rechazo, rechazo” on Twitter. Guillier also said, “they tell you that you have a right to partake, but then give you such a short time that it is insignificant and unfair.”

Multiple organizations have now criticized CNTV, accusing it of trying to repress certain sides of the campaign. Three complaints have been lodged by independent organizations, including “Somos Chile,” which is struggling to get even a single word into the broadcast.

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