The Pirate Media Economy and the Emergence of Quichua Language Media Spaces in Ecuador

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Abstract

This paper gives an account of the pirate media economy of Ecuador and its role in the emergence of indigenous Quichua-language media spaces, identifying the different parties involved in this economy, discussing their relationship to the parallel “legitimate” media economy, and considering the implications of this informal media market for Quichua linguistic and cultural reproduction. As digital recording and playback technology has become increasingly more affordable and widespread over recent years, black markets have grown up worldwide, based on cheap “illegal” reproduction of commercial media, today sold by informal entrepreneurs in rural markets, shops and street corners around Ecuador. Piggybacking on this pirate infrastructure, Quichua-speaking media producers and consumers have begun to circulate indigenous-language video at an unprecedented rate, helped by small-scale merchants who themselves profit by supplying market demands for positive images of indigenous people. In a context of a national media that has tended to silence indigenous voices rather than amplify them, informal media producers, consumers and vendors are developing relationships that open meaningful media spaces within the particular social, economic and linguistic contexts of Ecuador.

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