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Chilean Television: From University Broadcasts to the Cable Market

Since the beginning of television, Chilean audiences have been demanding of the quality of their programs. Today the main concern of viewers is focused on receiving a better service (quality and variety) from both free-to-air television channels and cable operators.

Origins of Chilean television

Chilean television emerged in 1957, when the Catholic University of Valparaíso broadcast images of Brasil Avenue and Barón Hill for the first time. In August 1959, the UCV made the first official television transmission, using frequency 8. The activity was developed slowly and its emissions were captured by receivers arranged in some places of the port city.

Despite this broadcast, it is assumed as the first official transmission made by the Catholic University of Santiago, on August 21, 1959 by frequency 2. In a first stage it was broadcast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, one or two hours a day. They had a video transmitter of 200 wats. It was transmitted from the top floor of the university's central house, with a six-meter directional antenna.

That same year it was changed from frequency 2 to 13 and simultaneously the transmissions were regularized with live programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while on Saturdays cinema was broadcast. The development of TV accelerated even more on the occasion of the World Cup that was held in Chile in 1962.

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Parallel to this process, an audiovisual department was created at the University of Chile as a result of the merger between the departments of cinema, radio and the university cinematheque. In the beginning, the idea was not to create an open television channel, but rather a closed circuit system that would unite the different schools of the university that were physically very separated.

Due to the success of the system, the authorities decided to use the medium as a method of cultural extension to the community. Regular broadcasts began on November 4, 1960.

University Television

Linked to their accelerated technological development, it should be noted that Chilean higher education centers enjoyed great prestige both nationally and internationally. Therefore, the television channels that emerged in the sixties did so under the eaves of the universities. There were no legal norms that governed their operations, therefore they were guided by guidelines that came from the academic authorities themselves including some rules, especially referring to their programming content.

National Television of Chile (TVN)

From 1969 a national network of state television was created as a result of the enactment of Law 17,377, which granted legislation necessary for the emergence of Televisión Nacional de Chile, in addition to providing other aspects of importance for the development of television in general, such as: the legal recognition of existing university channels, the setting of objectives for the programming of the stations and the creation of the National Television Council, which ensures compliance with the objectives indicated in the legal regulations. At present TVN is developed as an autonomous company of the State, managed by a board of directors and an executive director.

Different has been the situation of channel 13, Television Corporation of the Catholic University of Chile, which has maintained its characteristic of university and is located as one of the Latin American television channels with the greatest development. In addition to being one of the pioneers in the national scope, it has very high audience rates and 100% coverage in the Chilean territory.

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New channels

From the nineties, Megavisión S.A. was added to the list of existing channels, the first private channel in a Chilean television market. Since 1993 it has been live throughout the national territory.

Megavisión S.A. is currently associated with the Mexican network Televisa, which owns 40% of the company's shares. The rest is owned by the communications company CIECSA, chaired by Ricardo Claro.

Of similar characteristics is The network, also a private channel with the participation of foreigners in its property. 51% belongs to Consorcio Periodístico S.A. (COPESA), and the remaining 49% to Camwest Global Communications Corp.

On the same level of associations, channel 11 Chilevisión, which was the channel of the University of Chile, partnered with the Venezuelan network Venevisión of the Cisneros group, which controls 99% of the channel. The remaining 1% belongs to the University of Chile.

To this enumeration must be added the newest of the Chilean channels. This is Rock & Pop, a channel that focuses its programming primarily on young people and has been operating in Santiago since August 16, 1995.

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Apart from the coverage achieved by the largest channels in the country (Megavisión, Televisión Nacional de Chile, Corporación de Televisión de la Universidad Católica and Chilevisión), the regional networks that these channels have should be added.

Cable TV

For some years now, the phenomenon of cable TV has been increasing dramatically, if the number of subscribers is taken into account. According to information provided by the same operators, the country has more than 350,000 subscribed households and a growth rate of 20%.

This increase in pay television motivated the study and the creation of a control system in accordance with the national reality.

The impact of cable is reflected today in a series of qualitative differences in relation to free-to-air television. Only the number of hours of transmissions can exemplify this difference: open reception channels broadcast about 44 thousand hours a year, while cable has a programmatic offer that exceeds one million in the same period.

The phenomenon in which the cable was transformed, mainly from one year to date, is of national dimensions. Although about 60% of subscribers belong to Santiago, the subscription process covers the entire country. From Arica to Punta Arenas, almost all cities with more than 70,000 inhabitants have some cable television service. In 51 urban centers of Chile, 68 issuing stations are operating.

In addition to geographical coverage, this type of television has penetrated a wide sector of society. Although at first the cable was an alternative for the upper classes, today the situation presents notorious changes. The medium and medium-low sectors are an important market in expansion, generating penetration in the so-called popular communes by operators.

Cable companies operating in Santiago have created coalitions leaving the market in the hands of a few. The merger between Intercom and Metropolis on the one hand, and on the other the union between VTR and Cableexpress has made the service more attractive to subscribers, who ultimately benefit from better service and a greater number of signals per operator.

Pay-TV regulation

The National Television Council, which monitors the performance of free-to-air television channels, has also set its sights on cable operators and has set up an office to review broadcasts in order to monitor the material seen by users of the system.

Special emphasis is placed on the control of programming with contents of excessive violence, pornography, truculence or the participation of minors in acts at odds with morality and good customs. In addition, it sets the times at which it is possible to broadcast alcohol and tobacco advertising, and the broadcast of qualified films for adults.

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