Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recent Developments and Tendencies in Mexican MediaMexican

Crossing Borders:
U.S./Latin American Relations in the Early 21st Century
March 2-4, 2005
The University of San Francisco


Chair/Commentators: Victor Marquez, General Counsel for San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association and Dr Abdiel Onate, SFSU

Rosanna Fuentes Berain, Foreign Affairs en Espanol with collaboration of Bernardo Mendez, Mexican Trade Consul in SF, former consular Press Attaché in SF, Atlanta and Montreal

“Recent Developments and Tendencies in Mexican Media: Reflections in Autonomy and Dependency

Before Bernardo starts the reading of my paper I want apologize for not being to the organizers of this interesting and timely Conference about the US-Latin American Relations in the XXI. Due to family matters, a surgery, I can not attend the meeting in person. Nevertheless I want to thank you all for the invitation and send my best wishes for the successful conclusion and results of this great gathering.

In my own name and my coworkers in Foreign Affairs en Espanol I want to welcome all academics to be in contact with me and to explore future collaborations in our publication, normally we ask for specific topics and themes, but we are also open to non commissioned papers, so please keep an eye in Foreign Affairs en Espanol, as an outlet for your research we can make an especial suscription offer for participants in this Conference.

Now let me give you my ideas on where the Mexican media stands today, what are its main trends and how I see the future of Mexico in a wider Iberoamerican vision.

Just to mention the leading role of Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, (printed by Grupo Prisa) there is a Mexico City edition that is like an exemplary paradigm of good journalism for most of Spanish and Iberoamerican elites and somehow El Pais is like a school to follow and many young journalists in Latin America wish to have a good exposure to a more European style and taste of journalism and El Pais offers this innovative window to the readers but also to the new graduated journalists willing to get credentials for a better work practice on printed media outlets.

Mexican media has gone through a significant transformation in the last two decades. The political ruling of dominant party for more than 70 years shaped the structure of the Mexican media for many reasons; the legal system of concessions or licensing of the state to networks and the state monopoly of newsprint made it almost impossible to have independent media. The important economic concentration of TV and radio concessions to a few private media conglomerates made for society in which a single message, that of the government-party, prevailed.

Printed media, newspapers and magazine and in general the editorial industry in Mexico was highly dependent of the State-run paper Company known as PIPSA created in the presidency of former president Lazaro Cardenas in 1935.

Most of the Mexican media, TV, radio broadcasting and printed newspapers and magazines were also highly linked to government paid publicity and in some cases former top officials including former presidents as Miguel Aleman family were part of the media corporations as TELEVISA.

Since the seventies and after the Student revolt of October 1968, the Mexican government came into more pressure from the Mexican civil society to open more avenues for democratization of media.

Paradoxically, the creation of alternative printed media came after political manipulation against leading journalist Julio Scherer Garcia, director of daily newspaper Excelsior, Scherer was put aside of Excelsior by “cooperativistas” and union members of the newspaper manipulated by then president Luis Echeverria (1970-1976).

Scherer and all his team fired by the new people in the paper backed by Echeverria, created immediately an alternative weekly Proceso ( and Unomasuno, a daily newspaper (

An internal division in 1984 of Unomasuno leads to the creation of La Jornada daily paper, one of the independent voices in the daily printed media in Mexico.

We have to acknowledge that more business oriented media with headquarters in Monterrey, Mexico have created an independent network of daily newspapers in the main cities of Mexico: El Norte in Monterrey, Reforma in Mexico City and Mural in Guadalajara.

I have been involved in some of the new printed and audiovisual independent media; I was at El Financiero ( that in the late 80’s and early 90’ was a smart and critical voice for business and political analysis and society in Mexico. Also spent many years with Reforma first as an editor and then as a managing editor.

We have to add to today’s list of media working towards diversity in Mexico the network of Radio Educacion, the station is part of the Ministry of Education but has had in the last 20 years many independent voices in its frequency and has an increasing national network with local radios of state universities radios and community radios in many regions of Mexico.

On TV, I have a news space with a good level of freedom at Channel 22, a state supported cultural network.

I have to say that private corporations have increased freedom and independence but without transforming the legal framework of concessions, the government still can blackmail private TV and radio corporations with their licensing process.

In my view, the oligopolistic structure of TV and radio broadcasting has to change and a more transparent and open system has to be set up.

Channel 40 (Mexico City and cable national wide) could evolve into a Public Broadcasting System alternative but it has to be developed in many regions of Mexico and to increase the budget and presence in local stations with an outreach towards universities and indigenous organizations.

The state-run systems in each Mexican state (there are 32 state and same number of radio and TV systems) play a very important role but they need a clear legal system with supervision of society and local congresses must regulate the operation of these regional state systems.

What are my final comments and not necessary my conclusions. The relation between Mexican “politicos” and media has changed in the last 20 years, in some cases due to material transformations as the end of the state monopoly of paper in 1998 or more political reasons as the political reform in 1976-1977, the advance of the electoral dimension of democracy, very clear since the 1990’s and evidently after the presidential election of 2000.

Also, I have to say that we have today a more professionalized career journalists and important role of independent commentators such as academic experts (this is a interesting phenomena that needs a deeper analysis, academics have transited from academia to editorial comments and then to political power at government level or the IFE, Instituto Federal Electoral top positions).

The truly radical reform to the legal framework for media will be to set up a transparent regime of concessions and accountability. The re-enforcement of public guideness for supervision and new legal order is needed.

A change in the policy for private investments is much needed. This means more legal security for investors and at the same time, public opinion and citizen involvement in the supervision of radio and TV concessions.

The time, efforts and talent dedicated to “infoentertainment” has to be discussed without affecting freedom of expression and original creativity. Rigorous analysis is needed in order to avoid abuse of “sensational” programs that manipulate human feelings and fears of the public. These efforts must be linked to implementing new ethics code and social responsibility of the media and to provide a real assessment of its educational and cultural impact.

The great risk in Mexico and Latin America is the mechanical reproduction of marketing interests and spread of “pseudo-values” following the worst examples of the life-shows or sensational spectacles aired in the recent years in the USA.

However, we do not perceive a dichotomy between public and private. Especially for Latin American that needs to consider the model of state supported radio and TV such as the BBC in United Kingdom. The BBC can be a good paradigm that private and public media con work together for a better informed, critical and more educated audience in Mexico and elsewhere including Latin America and the world.

Now let me do the final remarks in Spanish in order that you get my original voice in my native language:

La exigencia ciudadana en México para que sus representantes políticos le rindan cuentas ha crecido consistentemente en el último cuarto de siglo y una de las entidades que se hacen eco y/o propician este proceso han sido los medios.

La función periodística primigenia, aquella que señala que deben establecerse como contrapoder dentro de una sociedad, no se entendería sin otro proceso simultáneo y largamente anhelado: el empoderamiento democrático de la ciudadanía.

Por primera vez en nuestra historia como nación el poder se comparte. A querer o no los políticos tienen que hacerlo, por mandato entre las tres ramas de gobierno y los órganos autónomos constitucionales, y por instinto de sobrevivencia con la ciudadanía, tornada en opinión pública cuando se habla de los medios.

Ese es el dilema presente en el gobierno del Presidente Vicente Fox. Los políticos, aún los liberalizadores, desean una democracia que los mantenga en el poder y se indignan cuando ésta se vuelve contra ellos. Intentan aferrarse al poder mientras pueden, pero llega un momento en que deben optar entre dejar un paso atrás y restablecer el autoritarismo y seguir avanzando hacia la emancipación autoritaria.

Por supuesto que estos no son procesos ni acabados ni de una sola vez. Los hechos van delante de una revisión jurídica indispensable que transforme las normas no escritas entre los medios y la política que, aunque han cambiado de lo que existía durante buena parte del siglo 20, aún no tienen forma legal.

La mejor forma conocida de evitar la impunidad en cualquiera de los dos ingredientes de la ecuación medios/política sería dándole marco jurídico, y por supuesto, haciendo que la ley se cumpla, como dice el maestro Miguel Carbonell viviendo en constitución en este rubro, esa, es la asignatura pendiente para el siglo 21.



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