Thursday, March 12, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Two Mexican media empires get the go-ahead to create new television networks. That means twice as much competition. But can we handle twice as much schlock?

Excelsior’s lead front-page headline is a celebration in print, a big, bold banner announcing triumphantly “New competition in TV.” The enthusiasm is easily explained — it’s Excelsior’s parent company that gets to provide the new competition.
    Cadena 3 was one of two winning bidders of government concessions for a third and fourth over-the-air television network. It belongs to the same media empire as Excelsior, called Grupo Imagen, which in turn is part of Grupo Empresarial Ángeles.
    GEA, controlled by the Vázquez family (Olegario Vázquez Raña and his son, Olegario Vázquez Aldir) owns the Ángeles hospital chain, the Camino Real hotel chain and Financiera Multiva banking services, as well as Grupo Imagen.
    The other new TV network goes to Grupo Radio Centro, a radio empire for more than half a century with stations throughout Mexico and in Los Angeles. Both paid more than $100 million dollars for their concession. The two winners were the only two bidders.
    The new networks are meant to break the Televisa/TV Azteca stranglehold on over-the-air television, and to open up the thickly concentrated Mexican telecommunications industry to more competition. What really just happened, though, is that two previously existing major players have acquired more chips to put on the table.
   As for content —what we'll actually have to watch — the track record of both media groups promises more of what Televisa has given us all our lives. Which is to say execrable programming and shamelessly pro-government news coverage, with an approach bouncing between the timid and the trivial. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but the smart money’s on a doubled-down dose of insulting schlock.

Two papers lead with the plight of the peso, which has hit record lows in recent days, sometimes inching up toward the 16-per-dollar mark.
    El Universal gives us this: “3 billion dollars will be injected to protect peso.” The reference is to a new government and central bank strategy for pushing the price of a dollar down relative to the Mexican peso. Implemented yesterday, it calls for auctioning off $52 million dollars a day with no minimum price.
    That’s in addition to a mechanism requiring a one-day sell-off of $200 million dollars whenever the peso drops by 1.5% or more in a single day. The new daily sale of dollars will last through June 8, the day after the national mid-term elections.
    La Jornada leads with the other announced peso-saving strategy: “Currency reserves limited to shore up peso.”


Milenio sticks with another festering concern — the fate of the June 7 elections in the state of Guerrero. The threat seems to be coming at least as much from protesting teachers as from entrenched narco groups. Says Milenio in its lead head, “CETEG controls 60% of voting stations: governor.”
    The voting stations in question are throughout the state of Guerrero. The governor quoted is  Rogelio Ortega, who was appointed as interim state leader last year after the elected governor resigned in the wake of the Iguala tragedy. CETEG is the militant Guerrero education workers organization that has vowed to prevent voting from taking place.
    The governor’s point was simple. About 60% of the voting stations are planned to be sited in public schools. CETEG has total control over all the public schools. “In each school, if just one of them says no, the voting booths won’t be installed,” Ortega said.
    This kind of story is such standard fare lately that it’s easy to lose track of what we’re dealing with. Can it be that one group — a teachers group at that, and not even one affiliated with the national union — has the power to prevent an election from taking place across an entire state? 
    Are the authorities as helpless before them as they seem to be?
    Do the rest of us have to choose between impunity and repression?
    Is this what the Mexican Moment looks like? Can we trade it in for another one?

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