In several Latin American countries, a cadena nacional ("national network", also referred to as a cadena oficial or red voluntaria) is a joint broadcast, over various media (usually radio and television), directed at the general population of a state. Initially conceived as a form of emergency population warning, these broadcasts are often of a political nature, as most of them are messages by governmental authorities about various topics of general interest.
Depending on the country, the characteristics of cadenas nacionales vary. In some countries, they are enshrined in law; in others, they are informal and cooperative. In some countries, including Argentina and Venezuela, all stations are mandated to air these messages (similar in nature to Emergency Action Notifications in the United States).
Cadenas nacionales by country
The use of cadenas nacionales in Argentina is regulated by Article 75 of the Law 26,522 of Audiovisual Communications Services, signed into law in 2008. This article specifies that the executive branch of the national government or of provincial governments may, in exceptional circumstances, use all of the broadcast stations in a state. When such a message is delivered, all Argentine television stations must cease all programming to allow for the broadcasting of the message. Article 74 of the same law requires broadcasters to make airtime available to political parties according to the electoral law.
Article 75 of Law 26,522 superseded the Decree-Law 22,285 of 1980, the National Broadcasting Law, which similarly required broadcasters to carry cadenas nacionales as defined by COMFER, the predecessor to today's ENACOM.
A new law, effective as of August 8, 2011, requires television and radio broadcasters to transmit two presidential speeches a year, produced by the state media Radio Illimani and Bolivia TV. These speeches have averaged a length of three hours since the law came into effect.
Since Chile's return to democracy in 1989, most cadenas nacionales have been voluntary in nature, but under previous governments such as those of Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende, stations were obliged to carry these messages. They are aired by television stations in the National Television Association (ANATEL), which subcontracts the production to Endemol, and it is not required of radio stations. One type of cadena nacional is obligatory for all television stations according to the electoral law, the franja electoral or simultaneous transmission of campaign material from the major political parties; this is the only time election campaign ads are broadcast on television.
The first law permitting cadenas nacionales in Ecuador was passed in 1975 during the regime of Gen. Guillermo Rodríguez Lara. Chapter 59 of Supreme Decree 256-A, the "Radio and Television Law", which was modified in 1995, required the broadcast of cadenas nacionales. In 2009, President Rafael Correa ordered Ecuador's television stations to broadcast 233 cadenas nacionales over the course of the year, the highest such figure in the region and 92 more than Venezuela in the same year.
The prior law was replaced in 2013. The Organic Communication Law's article 74 replaced it, retaining the requirements for broadcasters and extending them to pay television services, which must suspend their own program transmissions to carry cadenas.
The Telecommunications Law of 1997 requires stations to transmit cadenas, which may be called for by the president "in case of war, invasion of territory, rebellion, sedition, catastrophe, epidemic or other calamity, grave disturbances of the public order or messages of national interest". During election campaigns and particularly on election day, only the Electoral Tribunal can convoke cadenas nacionales, which are also obligatory.
The law that defined cadenas was derogated in 2004 after the constitutional court ruled that they were illegal, violated the right of citizens to "inform and be informed", and also kept the public in "informational captivity".
Cadenas nacionales are obligatory for all television and radio stations, and are used to broadcast presidential reports and messages of national interest. They are limited to seven minutes in duration, unless CONATEL, the regulator, decides more time is necessary for the broadcast (which is frequent). In January 2014, the ceremony to mark the start of the new president's term was carried as a cadena nacional and ran five hours. The requirement to carry cadenas has been extended to cable and satellite television providers.
Mexico requires cadenas in circumstances of "national significance", as judged by the Dirección General de Radio, Televisión y Cinematografía (General Directorate of Radio, Television and Film)—an agency of the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB)—and defined in Article 255 of the Federal Broadcasting and Telecommunications Law. Stations are also obligated to broadcast messages related to civil defense, national security, and public health, as well as messages related to ships and aircraft in danger. Mexico also requires that all broadcasters allocate 30 minutes of their broadcast day to programming from the state. Most of this time is used to run official advertising, managed by SEGOB, and (during electoral campaigns) election advertising, managed by the National Electoral Institute.
Radio stations also carry La Hora Nacional, an hour-long radio program aired on Sunday nights, as part of this requirement.
Administrative accord 009-2010 regulates cadenas nacionales in Nicaragua. The accord and the telecommunications regulator TELCOR both require the carriage of cadenas by radio, broadcast television and subscription television services. Foreign television services carried on cable/satellite platforms are forced to cease all broadcasting until the cadena concludes.
There is no specific law on cadenas; the government must buy airtime from the broadcasters, and carriage of such national events is voluntary by law. The most common event for such joint broadcasts is the presidential message delivered on July 28 of each year, though on occasion other cadenas have been called, for events such as natural disasters.
Decree 734/78, passed during the military government and modified from the mid-1980s onward, regulates cadenas nacionales. They are obligatory for all broadcasters, as is the transmission of state-designed "public good" campaigns. Most cadenas in Uruguay are conducted on public holidays and sometimes contain messages from other institutions.
The Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television (Ley RESORTE) requires broadcasters to transmit cadenas nacionales. Cadenas have no time limits and must be carried not only by radio and television broadcasters, but by cable networks with less than 60% international production.
On one occasion, television stations were forced to broadcast a 44-minute-long musical performance contained within a cadena nacional.
From 1999 to 2009, Venezuela had an average of 195 cadenas a year.
Forced cadenas nacionales of a political nature have been strongly criticized by some media outlets, as in some cases it requires them to broadcast opinions that differ from their normal editorial stances. The Venezuelan RCTV network refused to air a message from Hugo Chávez in 2007, violating broadcasting laws. In late 2012, a cadena was used to force media outlets away from a presidential campaign speech by opposition leader Henrique Capriles; the cadena in question concerned the opening of a new school. A similar event took place the next year.
Likewise, Honduran media resisted an attempt by the government of Manuel Zelaya to institute cadenas nacionales in that country, noting that "in the past the cadena nacional was constantly used, mainly by de facto governments, without satisfactory results".
In Argentina, the frequent use of cadenas by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been compared to "abuse" of the system by the opposition. From 2009 to May 2015, there have been 119 cadenas nacionales in Argentina, including 17 in the first five months of 2015. Her predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, only used the cadena nacional twice in four years.
- Infoleg.gov.ar: Ley 26.522, Art. 75
- "Infoleg.gov.ar: Ley 22.285, Art. 72". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
- Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información, "Informe Sobre Herramientas del Estado para el Control de la Información: Cadenas Nacionales", May 2014
- Mena Erazo, Paúl (2010-01-16). "Correa le ganó a Chávez con las cadenas". BBC Mundo. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
- Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión (2014)
- Peregil, Francisco (2012-07-22). "Chávez, Correa y Fernández, líderes en el uso de la propaganda televisiva". El País. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
- "Posible nuevo cierre de RCTV por no emitir una cadena nacional". El Día. 2007-07-25. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
- "Chávez interrumpe un discurso de Capriles con la cadena nacional". La Nación. 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
- "Venezuela: el chavismo volvió a interrumpir con una cadena nacional una conferencia de Capriles". Clarín. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
- "Honduras: rechazan cadena nacional". BBC Mundo. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
- "Presentarán medida cautelar por el uso de la Cadena Nacional". Clarín. 2015-05-17. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
- Parrilla, Juan Pablo (2015-05-22). "Cristina Kirchner habló más de 4.600 minutos en las 121 cadenas nacionales que protagonizo". Infobae. Retrieved 2015-05-25.