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Uruguay Approves Media Bill Barring Foreign Ownership

FILE - Uruguay's President Jose Mujica speaks during a news conference the presidential house Residencia de Suarez y Reyes, in Montevideo, Sept. 12, 2014.

A media bill that prohibits foreign ownership and is designed to prevent Uruguayan radio and television stations from becoming concentrated among a few powerful commercial interests was approved by lawmakers on Monday.

The bill was endorsed by 50 votes to 25 and will be enacted when the South American country's president-elect, Tabare Vazquez, replaces the outgoing leader, Jose Mujica, in March.

Mujica weighed in on the debate last week, warning that Uruguay's media would be swallowed up by foreign investors he described as “circling sharks” if the industry was not properly regulated.

Opposition lawmakers and critics said the bill impinged on citizens' freedom of expression and gave the government too much regulatory oversight. They also complained that the bill's failure to address digital media rendered it outdated.

“It's unnecessary ... and technologically obsolete. And it is has constitutional flaws,” said lawmaker Alvaro Delgado of the National Party.

The law specifies that 60 percent of television programming and 30 percent of music played on radios must be locally made. It also guarantees independent producers a 30 percent market share.