Sep 14, 2012

Mexico's media monopoly vs. the people

Televisa helped elect the country's new president. Now it hears cries for the breakup of its broadcast empire.

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery, contributor

CNN FORTUNE -- On July 7, nearly 100,000 people forced their way down Reforma, one of Mexico City's main avenues, gathering in front of the Angel of Independence, a 150-foot-tall monumentin a plaza in the city center. "People, Listen! This is your fight!" they chanted. "Governing a country is not [the same as] making a telenovela," one of the protest posters announced. Mexico's election is over, but in the weeks following the July 1 ballot count, demonstrators have takento the streets. They are angry about the victory of Enrique Peña Nieto, a polarizing but telegenic candidate who ran a campaign based on simple slogans such as "You'll Earn More!"

As the demonstration passed by Museo de Bellas Artes, an iconic museum in downtown Mexico City, Carolina Reyes, a recent college graduate, explained "I think there was fraud in the promotion [of Peña Nieto] in the media." She had painted the front of a model TV screen to show a modified version of the Televisa logo, re-done in the red, white, and green colors of Peña Nieto's party, a political machine with a long and checkered history in Mexico. A plastic tyrannosaurus rex toy poked its head out through a rip in the center of the logo, a warning about the return of old, corrupt, political "dinosaurs" to power. "Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!" the crowd around Carolina chanted, as onlookers stopped to use their cell phones to snap photos as she held her TV prop over her head. The protesters, the majority of whom supported Andres Manuel Lopez Obredor (AMLO), a leftist candidate, are frustrated with the influence of Televisa (TV), Mexico's most important media company, in their country's political discourse. They don't want to see Televisa write the script for their country's elections.

Many members of Mexico's urban, educated, tech savvy youth, who watched and criticized the campaigns via Youtube and Twitter, think that Televisa, a TV conglomerate that produces many of the country's most popular telenovelas, may be too big for the country's good.Televisa controls 70% of the broadcast television market, and its broadcasts reach 95% of all homes in Mexico. Unlike cable TV or the Internet -- platforms that offer a plethora of options -- viewers frustrated with the perceived political slant of news coverage on Mexico's broadcast TV networks have few alternatives. Especially in Mexico, a country with limited cable and Internet penetration, broadcast TV plays a central role. Right now the country has only two nationally broadcast TV channels. Javier Aparicio, a political economy professor at CIDE, a prestigious research institute in Mexico City, explained that his "main concern is the concentration of the media industry in Mexico." He added, "Televisa has an important influence in campaigns in national elections." Read more. 

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