Journalists on Journalism

News in the Chilean Capital

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

Most Chileans learn about themselves and the world through television. In the capital city of Santiago, daily audiences for TV news reach approximately 2.4 million viewers, according to market research. Although that figure equals about 70 percent of the city’s total population 15 or older, some are repeat viewers who catch more than one of the four daily broadcasts: morning, lunch hour, p.m. and midnight.

Some 40 percent of Chile’s 14.5 million inhabitants live in the Santiago metro area, one of the highest concentrations in the world for a capital city.

About a million santiaguinos watch an evening newscast around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., but a surprisingly large number-more than 600,000-tune in for the midnight wrap-up. The morning shows have the lightest audiences, which may reflect the long commutes to their jobs residents face. Three of the five local TV stations don’t even put on a morning news show.

Although the Association of Radio Owners boasts that 88 percent of residents listen to the radio each day, a recent market survey places that figure at closer to 65 percent. Most radio news programs are comprised of quick headlines interspersed among musical offerings. The most important radio station for news, Cooperativa, has a daily audience of some 210,000 listeners, followed by Radio Chilena at about half that figure.

Santiago’s half-dozen dailies are the third-most important news source in absolute numbers but offer greater depth. Income and gender are important factors: While 300,000 of the richest residents of Santiago read the conservative broadsheet El Mercurio (out of a total readership of some 1 million), only 5,000 people in the lowest socioeconomic sector do so. They prefer the scandal-oriented tabloid La Cuarta, read by 325,000 low-income people, three-quarters of its audience.

These figures represent total readership, not press runs. Given the country’s wage levels, a purchased newspaper passes through many hands. The free daily, MTG, given away at Metro stations in the morning rush hour, has edged up to fifth place, with 390,000 readers. While 77 percent of men in Santiago read a newspaper at least once a week, among women the figure falls to 63 percent.