(U//FOUO) Open Source Center Uruguayan Media at a Glance


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OSC Media Aid: Uruguayan Media at a Glance

LAF20090617471001 Uruguay — OSC Media Aid in English 17 Jun 09

[corrected version: correcting typo in sourceline]

Radio is the most important source of information in Uruguay and plays a significant role in shaping public opinion. A few television stations are identified with political parties, but their affiliation is not as strong as that of newspapers, which continue to impact public opinion in this highly literate country. The state-owned Servicio Oficial de Radio, TV y Espectaculos (SODRE) is a public service institution designed to guarantee Uruguayan citizens the “right to information, freedom of expression, and access to high-quality radio products.” The audience share for state-owned media tends to be low. Freedom of the press, which is guaranteed by Article 29 of the Constitution, is respected in Uruguay, according to Reporters Without Borders and UNESCO. Half of the population has access to the Internet, but only 5% read the news online. Use of emerging media in Uruguay follows the trend in Latin America, with a marked preference for the social networking websites Facebook and Orkut. Cable TV is the first telecommunications sector to experience the effects of the recession. Mobile phone penetration is very high.


Radio remains the most important means of access to news for most of the population and plays a significant role in shaping public opinion through talk shows on key stations. While station ownership is often affiliated with a political party, broadcast journalists are relatively objective in their coverage and uninfluenced by party concerns. The state-owned SODRE service has three AM radio stations and one FM station. In March 2005, the government began implementing a five-year program to retool and develop the four state-owned radio stations. These efforts included technically revamping the stations; providing professional training for staff; reorganizing programming in 2006; and installing new transmitters in Montevideo in December 2008, Rocha in February 2009, and Colonia in March 2009. SODRE official Sergio Sacomani noted that 70% of the plan had been implemented as of March 2009.

  • Radio El Espectador (www.espectador.com, requires subscription) belongs to the El Espectador Group, which includes Radio Espectador, Urbana FM, and Espectador.com. Its programming includes news, interviews, economic and political analysis, sports, and general information. Approximately 120,000 people in the Montevideo metropolitan region and 200,000 people nationwide — mostly in the medium- to high-income range and over 25 years old — listen to El Espectador each week.
  • Radio Carve (www.carve850.com.uy) is a privately owned radio station with nationwide coverage of a wide range of topics.
  • CX8 Radio Sarandi (www.sarandi690.com.uy), on the air since 1931, was one of the first radio stations in Uruguay. The station was originally managed by the Catholic Church and carried church-related programs. It changed ownership in 1948 and began broadcasting interviews with leading national figures, along with social, cultural, political, and economic commentaries.

Print Media

Newspapers and magazines in this country of high literacy (97.3%) have traditionally had a significant impact on public opinion. Almost all dailies and weeklies identify with one or more factions of a recognized political party or group. The weeklies offer reliable news analysis, which openly reflects their political affiliation. Despite print media’s high profile, circulation has dropped by 11.2% over the past five years.

  • El Pais (www.elpais.com.uy) is the top-circulation daily, featuring political and economic information, as well as breaking news. El Pais is openly sympathetic to the rightist opposition National Party and has an average circulation of 40,000-100,000. A 2008 poll by IBOPE — the largest polling company in Latin America, with headquarters in Brazil and 12 branches throughout the continent — showed that 65% of the Montevideo population reads the online version of El Pais.
  • El Observador (www.elobservador.com.uy) is an economic and financial daily featuring reliable political coverage, with an average circulation of 17,000-25,000; it is read by 11% of the Montevideo population.
  • La Republica (www.larepublica.com.uy), the second-highest-read daily in Montevideo (13%), maintains strong ties with the ruling leftist Broad Front coalition. This sensationalist paper belongs to the Multimedio Plural division of the Republica Group,[ 1] and has an average circulation of 15,000-20,000.
  • The influential leftist Brecha magazine (www.brecha.com.uy) is one of Uruguay’s leading weeklies.


Although a few television stations identify with political parties, their affiliation is not as strong as that of newspapers. The format of the stations’ news programs is similar, as each station vies for the same audience and draws from a limited selection of local news sources and international satellite feeds. SODRE owns one television channel (Tveo Nacional Television, also known as Channel 5) in Montevideo and 18 repeater stations in the rest of the country. DirecTV became available in Montevideo in 2002 and has a quickly growing audience. Most cities and large towns have at least two cable services. Five cable companies operate in Montevideo and roughly
180 exist throughout Uruguay.

  • Tveo Nacional Television (www.sodre.gub.uy) features political, economic, and cultural programming. In February 2005, the SODRE-approved “Uruguay TV” project made the channel’s signal available throughout Latin America, the United States, and Europe.
  • TV Libre (www.tvlibre.com.uy) is a fee-based channel broadcasting 24 hours a day and belonging to the Multimedio Plural division of the Republica Group.
  • Monte Carlo TV Channel 4 (www.canal4.com.uy) is a general entertainment channel that features four news programs per day. It is known at a continent-wide level for the quality of its programs. Monte Carlo was the first Uruguayan television channel to use a Satellite News Gathering (SNG) system.
  • In August 2007, Uruguay adopted digital terrestrial TV technology and became the first Latin American country to adopt the DVB Europe-based standard rather than the ATSC standard used in North America. The outlook for cable TV in 2009 is unclear, however, as it became the first telecom sector to feel the effects of the recession, with a 1.5% subscription decline in the second half of 2008.


Internet penetration continues to grow, especially among 18- to 30-year olds. According to a December 2008 survey conducted by the Radar polling company, out of 2,622,000 Uruguayans aged 12 or higher, 51.7% have access to the Internet in Montevideo and 49.6% have access in the rest of the country. The same poll showed that even though most Uruguayan radio stations and newspapers have a presence on the Internet, only 5% of these individuals read the news online. A total of 230,000 homes had broadband Internet connectivity as of December 2008.

Emerging Media

The Association of Digital Publications of Uruguay — which was created in August 2004 to represent the various emerging media sectors — is regarded in Uruguay as “the beginning of a new era,” according to the Informe Uruguay newspaper. In step with the general Latin American trend, Uruguayan users of social networking websites have preferred Facebook and Orkut, in that respective order, since August 2008. Each of these services has more than 1,000 Uruguayan users. Uruguay’s mobile phone penetration passed the 100% mark in August 2008. Uruguayans are very likely to own more than one mobile phone from the same provider as they try to take advantage of cheaper rates. There were 3,316,389 mobile phones in use in Uruguay as of July 2008, compared to 2,330,011 in 2006. All three mobile operators — state-owned Ancel, Telefonica’s Movistar, and America Movil’s Claro — launched 3G services in July 2007. In February 2009, the Uruguayan Government launched the five-year Cardales plan, which is designed to provide subsidized Internet, pay TV, and telephone services through a single feed to lower-income families who are unable to afford these services on their own.

[ 1] The group is owned by Federico Fasano and includes the La Republica daily, radio stations 1410 AM Libre and 89.7 FM Libre, and the TV Libre station.

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