The media in Ecuador is torn between its great cities, with ownership of the main nationals and television stations based in Quito and Guayaquil. Even on the televised nightly news, coverage is split equally between newsdesks based in each city.
Newspapers run the gamut from national broadsheets offering in-depth reporting to tabloids revelling in lurid tittle-tattle. Television, on the whole, has a smattering of quality news and documentary programmes, but is dominated by imports, soaps and game shows. Ecuador has many local radio stations, which are considered the glue that binds remote communities together.
Ecuador produces several high-quality daily newspapers. Leader of the pack is the Quito-based El Comercio, a traditional broadsheet that has good coverage of home and international news, and comes with supplement sections on sport and business. The more progressive Hoy, again from Quito, also enjoys a high standard of writing, particularly in its robust editorials. The Guayaquil broadsheets, El Universo and El Telégrafo, are solid publications, the latter printing a news summary in English. There are a number of regional newspapers too, such as El Mercurio in Cuenca, and La Hora, with twelve regional editions. Just about all of these major dailies also have their own websites.
The gravity of the broadsheets is counterbalanced by a racy tabloid press, the most visible being Guayaquil’s Extra, available across the country, which manages to plumb the depths of tabloid journalism with an unsavoury mix of sex and violence.
A few English-language pocket-sized city guides are published in Quito and have tourist information and the odd article in English and Spanish; these include The Explorer and This is Ecuador (w). Imported news magazines are usually only found in the tourist centres, where you’re also likely to get copies of the International Herald Tribune and the overseas edition of the Miami Herald newspaper.
Radio is an important part of community life, particularly in Ecuador’s rural regions where local stations are used to pass news and messages between villages. There are hundreds of such stations across the country, the majority broadcasting on AM, with a significant minority on shortwave frequencies. Religious broadcasting from evangelical Christians is also widespread and can be picked up across the country; the best known station, HCJB (w), features programmes and news in English and Spanish. With a shortwave radio, you’ll also be able to pick up BBC World Service (w), Voice of America (w) and Radio Canada International (w).
Ecuador has five main national television stations, and several other regional channels. Of the nationals, Ecuavisa and Teleamazonas are the most highbrow, with the best news bulletins and the occasional quality imported documentary. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Gamavision, based in Quito, which has a penchant for screening soaps (telenovelas), and Telesistema, from Guayaquil, which favours epic-length game shows, over-dubbed US imports and home-grown comedy. Telecentro holds the middle ground with a balance of popular programming interspersed with news and sport.
Cable TV has made big inroads in Ecuador, and even the cheaper hotels are getting it installed. The number of channels you’ll get depends on how much the hotel owner has paid in subscription, but you’ll almost always have an English-language film channel and a music channel. Only the top-end places are likely to have Direct TV, a satellite setup with dozens of familiar channels in English and Spanish.