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Uruguay: Rich News Diet Is A Forgotten Luxury

Egon Friedler, WPR Correspondent, Montevideo

This article appeared in the December 2001 World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 12)

During the 1950s and ’60s, when Uruguay still boasted a large, moderately prosperous middle class, it was very common for middle-income families to buy two newspapers a day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. This luxury has long been forgotten. Now even people who belong to the cultural elite do not buy newspapers every day. Instead, many watch the 9 p.m. news on one of the three privately-owned TV channels, buy a weekly or a foreign publication, and buy El País on Sundays.

The secret of the success of the Sunday El País is very simple: When you buy the newspaper, you cast your lot and can win a car. So the independent El País, which is still the largest newspaper in the country, prints 70,000 issues on Sunday, while during the week it has a circulation of no more than 25,000.

Next comes the Opus Dei-affiliated El Observador Económico (average circulation 10,000), which is read mostly by yuppies and business entrepreneurs. Third-largest is La República, a sensationalist leftist paper directed by Federico Fassano, a controversial figure who has been involved in many libel suits. La República is the unofficial mouthpiece of Uruguay’s largest political party, the leftist Broad Front. The smallest paper is the right-wing Ultimas Noticias (circulation 2,500), owned by the Unification Church.

The two weeklies, the independent Búsqueda (circulation 6,500-7,000) and the leftist Brecha (5,500-6,000) have small but loyal audiences. The former is read mostly by the wealthy and by politicians; the latter is read by university students.

While newspapers are in retreat, and many people have become bored with shallow TV news coverage, radio journalism is thriving. The morning news programs have a very large listening audience. Of the principal radio programs, the leading one may be “En perspectiva,” which airs on the radio station El Espectador. El Espectador is followed very closely by Sarandí. Other successful journalistic programs are broadcast by the stations Radio Carve, Nuevo Tiempo, Montecarlo, and Imparcial.

Finally, a small group of well-educated people read foreign newspapers on the Internet.

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