Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2010

The Media Activism of Latin America's Leftist Governments: Does Ideology Matter

Philip Kitzberger

November 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Has Latin America’s left turn mattered in media politics? Does ideology impact governments’ practices and policies regarding media and journalistic institutions? Through an empirical assessment of discourses on the media, of direct-communication practices, and of media regulation policies on the part of the recent leftist governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela, this paper stresses the existence of a specific media activism on the part of leftist governments in Latin America. While showing that the current binary distinctions that stress the existence of two lefts—“populist” and “nonpopulist”—obscure important commonalities and continuities, the author also demonstrates that it is the existence of certain institutional and structural constraints that best accounts for the differ-ences among the various leftist governments in Latin America. In sum, the paper challenges the prevailing neglect of ideology as a relevant factor in explaining developments in government–media relationships in the region.