Law in the Internet Society

Who Will Control the Mexican Media?

-- By LiliAbascal - 17 Nov 2012

Context of the Telecommunications Industry in Mexico

Monopolies dominate the Mexican economy, and the telecommunication sector is no exception of this problem. The telephony and internet access markets are dominated by two companies owned by Mr. Carlos Slim: Telmex and Telcel. Mr. Slim’s companies have market shares of 80%, 70% and 74% of the fixed line, mobile and internet access markets respectively.

Besides that, Mr. Slim has constantly expressed his desire to own a TV channel; however, his companies are expressly forbidden to do so in Mexico. Despite not being authorized to provide TV services, Mr. Slim owns an online “TV Channel” called “Uno TV”. “Uno TV” has its own news program and provides free of charge daily news (via a SMS) to all of Telcel’s subscribers. Telmex also entered into an alliance with MVS Multivisión (a cable, radio and internet provider) to distribute satellite TV.

On the other hand, there are two dominant mass media conglomerates: Televisa and TV Azteca. Televisa is the largest mass media company in Latin America and in the Spanish speaking world. By the end of 2010 it had 70.5% of the average number of TV spectators in Mexico during prime time, and it had direct participation in cable and satellite TV, radio, magazines, telecommunication networks and internet, among others. The other company, and Televisa’s former rival, TV Azteca, by the end of 2010 absorbed 24.9% of the prime time audience and belonged to the same corporate group as Iusacell, the third mobile provider in Mexico. TV Azteca’s group also participates in the musical industry, and is a provider of cable TV, telephony and broadband internet. Those numbers acquire more relevance if one considers that according to a national survey, 95.5% of the Mexicans are informed of what happens through television.

Notwithstanding the severe market concentration, on June, 2012 the Mexican competition authority approved an alliance by which Televisa would become the owner of 50% of Iusacell, remaining the other 50% in the hands of TV Azteca.

With such numbers it is easy to understand the power that the telecom owners exercise. They are factual powers and dominate the Mexican political agenda. Another result of this concentration is that the information that most Mexicans receive is highly biased and there is neither diversity nor plurality.

Shift of Power

Internet has become a very important source of more objective and diverse information, as well as a place to interchange dialogue. There are new media outlets that are more critic than the traditional ones, but more importantly, internet has enabled direct individual exchange of information. However, it has only been possible because, so far, it has been a “neutral area” not yet heavily controlled by anyone.

A very recent example of the power of the net to transform the way individuals get informed and the transferal of the power of informing people from traditional media companies to individuals, is the emergence of the student protest movement “#YoSoy132” (“I’m 132”). During the 2012 Mexican presidential race, a group of students rose against the biased media coverage that Enrique Peña Nieto, then candidate to the presidency, was receiving. The movement was born and acquired power in the internet, eventually forcing all traditional media outlets (including Televisa and TV Azteca) to recognize and broadcast the activities of “#YoSoy132” but more remarkably, forcing them to give a more objective and fair coverage of all the presidential candidates.

Despite the increasing importance of the net, it is particularly disturbing that there has not been much debate about its neutrality or the power that the government or different businesses can acquire/exercise through it, compromising not only freedom of expression, but also individual privacy. There has certainly not been any discussion about the software that controls the network and whom is it serving. There hasn’t been debate about the power that businesses controlling net platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or even Google and Microsoft have acquired. No one is discussing the effects of a possible shift of power from companies like Televisa or TV Azteca, to Google, Twitter or Facebook.

It is clear that the balance is moving away from neutrality in favor of big corporations highly interconnected with the government, and surprisingly, not so many people are informed about it or more worrying, seem to care about it. The little debate that has arisen has been focused in economic power rather than in freedom of expression, citizens’ rights or net neutrality. The lack of serious debate can be exemplified with the acquisition by Televisa of the 50% of Iusacell. In that acquisition the discussion was centered mainly in the concentration of advertising media rather than in freedom of expression issues, or the power that Televisa and TV Azteca will achieve controlling a telecommunications network like the Iusacell one. Moreover, some of the members of “#YoSoy132” were identified and harassed by Peña Nieto’s team, there have been several law proposals to control the internet and give the government explicit powers to control it. Yet, no one is asking questions.

We, as society, need to get organized and raise our voice against actions that harm our freedom in either the internet or out of it. We have to protect the new communication channels and be attentive for them to not be censored. We have to create and maintain debate regarding the perils that freedom of expression and privacy are facing, as well as about the factual power that media and telecommunications companies hold. Keep raising our voice and taking advantage of the multiple outlets that the internet has allowed to exist, but while we do it, we should be careful to not simply be enabling the shift of power from one corporation or the government to another corporation. Power to communicate and express should remain in the society. "Yo soy 132" has taught us that the society still has that power, but we need to exercise it and fight for it.

It's impossible to disagree with any of this. You have said, from start to finish, what every educated Mexican knows. The problem is that you have not said anything more. You have articulated clearly one central part of the anatomy of contemporary Mexico. But then you say other people had better think about and respond to the picture you, and they, can all paint blindfolded. This is what everybody knows. An entire society lies bleeding, waiting for you to say what comes next.


Webs Webs

r5 - 23 Aug 2014 - 19:31:21 - EbenMoglen
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