In openDemocracy, is media consolidation leading Mexican democracy the way of Italy’s and Russia’s?
A key battleground is the electronic media, which has been able to increase its power and wealth thanks to privileges granted by Vicente Fox’s administration. Mexico’s media barons decided to turn the electoral contest to their advantage by exploiting the vulnerability of candidates who depend on airtime to circulate their ideas and proposals (together, Televisa and TV Azteca command more than 95% of Mexico’s television audience). True, it makes sense in strict business terms that the broadcasting industry seeks to defend its investments, but the method it chose and the political reception it received were alike scandalous: these giant corporations prepared a bill that was presented before a complicit, ignorant and/or frivolous house of representatives.
The bill, which made countless concessions to the ambitions of the media barons, was presented to the lower house in December 2005. The noteworthy, the incredible, the banana of it is that representatives from all political parties approved it unanimously – in seven minutes! The public learned only later that most of the legislators who voted for it had not even read, much less understood, a piece of legislation so crucial to Mexican modernity.
The document was sent to the upper house; by that stage, growing opposition to the law across Mexican society meant that senators could no longer hide behind their ignorance. Among the protestors were government agencies that regulate media; the main electoral authority; public and cultural media; academics and civil-society organisations; and a handful of professional politicians. Even the Mexican office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released statements reminding people that the law violated international agreements signed by Mexico.