Mexican reform to change relationship between media and Government

A new electoral reform goes into effect in Mexico today that aims to redefine the relationship between the country’s major broadcasters and the government, and to level the political playing field.

The changes to the constitution could help improve the quality of media editorial in Mexico, and help it to become more politically independent than it currently is.

In a move which has been labeled an ‘attack on free speech’ by Mexico’s two major television stations, Televisa and TV Azteca, political parties have been banned from buying ads on television and radio stations.

Protests from the country’s two leading broadcasters are more likely due to the fact that they stand to loose millions of pesos of advertising income as a result of the reforms, rather than concerns for the right to free speech.

Constitutional amendments mean that television and radio stations are now obliged to broadcast 48 minutes a day of free political advertising, forbidding parties from buying their own airtime. Presidential campaigning will also be limited to within three months before election day, and bans political parties from mud-slinging or insulting other political institutions and candidates.

The ban on paid advertising for political parties is intended to help level the political playing field and was prompted by a dispute over last year’s controversial presidential election, in which PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost out to the current president Felipe Calderon in what many claim were fraudulent elections plagued by political biased on the part of electoral authorities.

In 2006, more than half of all political campaign spending went on TV and radio ads, according to Mexico’s federal Electoral Institute.

The level of paid-for political advertising in Mexico has a huge influence on editorial and visa versa. In the case of newspapers, for example (which will not be affected by this reform), being critical of the Government has its consequences.

Media that criticize the Federal Government, such as the left-wing magazine Proceso, can lose their access to advertising. Earlier this year, for example, Proceso stated: “The government of President Felipe Calderón uses public money to punish and pressure, or to reward and favour media outlets according to their editorial line.”

But it’s not clear what the new reforms will do to address the high levels of violence against journalists in Mexico. If television and radio news editors don’t have to worry about the withdrawal of ad funds from disgruntled government patrons, their journalists could potentially be free to report more critically. Currently, many journalists in Mexico enforce a policy of self-censorship.

However, the removal of such financial impediments to freedom of reporting for journalists doesn’t really promise to have any impact on the physical reprisals currently suffered my media worked in many parts of the country.

Got a view? Leave it below……

Click here for more posts on Mexican Media in general.

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2 Responses

  1. It’s unclear to me where this push for reform comes from. Who lobbied for it, who passed the amendments, who wins for the change in the situation? Does this mean the little guy gets a voice? Color me skeptical.

    Also, what is the connection to “media that criticize the federal government . . . can lose their access to advertising”? It’s presented here like a consequence written into the new reform, but on rereading it just sounds like political blowback. Isn’t that just how it’s done?

  2. I guess the people who win, theoretically, should be the Mexican public as it means both state and federal government will be less able to put pressure on the editorial of T and radio news if they’re not paying for ad space. And if the ads are unpaid, it also means that the TV and radio stations won’t lose out if they’re pulled…..

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