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Cable reference id: #06MEXICO1080
“All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.” — “Refus Global“, Paul-Émile Borduas

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Reference id aka Wikileaks id #54678  ? 
SubjectRadio And Television Proposal Favors Mexican Monopolies
OriginEmbassy Mexico (Mexico)
Cable timeTue, 28 Feb 2006 17:37 UTC
Referenced by06MEXICO1123, 06MEXICO1716, 06MEXICO2220, 06MEXICO2708, 06MEXICO3905, 06MEXICO7054, 07MEXICO2334
Extras? Comments
Hide header C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MEXICO 001080 SIPDIS SIPDIS FCC PASS TO EMILY TALAGA USTR PASS TO JONATHAN MCHALE E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2016 TAGS: ECPS [Communications and Postal Systems], ECON [Economic Conditions], MX [Mexico], EINV [Foreign Investments] SUBJECT: RADIO AND TELEVISION PROPOSAL FAVORS MEXICAN MONOPOLIES Classified By: MINISTER COUNSELOR FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS JAMES T. HEG FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) ¶1. (U) Summary: The Mexican Chamber of Deputies unanimously passed legislation in December to reform the Radio and TV Law and change the composition of the Mexican Federal Telecommunications Commission (COFETEL). The Mexican Senate recently held a series of hearings on the bill and is expected to vote soon. Although most telecommunications experts agree that major reforms are needed in Mexico, some question the validity of the proposed reforms because they seem to favor the current dominant players as well as give them a possible advantage over telecommunications companies in offering traditional telecom services. Several officials and groups who originally opposed the legislation have recently changed their position. Opposition parties claim many people are afraid to speak out because the special interest groups depend on major broadcasting companies support for political and campaign advertising and time. End Summary. ------------------- THE "TELEVISA" BILL ------------------- ¶2. (U) The Mexican Chamber of Deputies sped through a bill aimed at reforming the Radio and TV and Telecommunications laws. The bill was introduced by PRI Deputy Miguel Lucer Palma in November. According to press reports and industry, Televisa drafted the proposal. On December 1, the Chamber unanimously approved it and sent it to the Senate. ¶3. (U) The proposal states that COFETEL commissioners will be appointed by the Executive 30 days after the bill has been approved and published in the Diario Oficial, meaning that all the commissioners would be designated by the current administration. Five commissioners will be appointed for an eight year term (which would prevent the next Administration from appointing any commissioners). Senate confirmation is not required, but Senators will have 30 days to object to the appointees. Previously, four commissioners served a five year term and appointments required Senate confirmation. ¶4. (U) The proposed legislation changes COFETEL's regulatory powers for broadcasting but does not allot the agency additional power over telecommunications concessions and licensing. The Secretariat of Communications and Transport (SCT) will still have discretionary power in this area. COFETEL, however, will be granted some authority over deciding whether a city or area needs broadcasting services once spectrum is freed up by the transition to digital technology. The new spectrum may be auctioned off and new authorizations would be granted for a period of 20 years. However, a grey area exists in the proposal that would most likely allow broadcasting companies to maintain control of the freed spectrum. Unlike current practice, SCT is not obligated to publish the program for auction and companies do not have obtain the Federal Competition Commission's (COFECO) approval before bidding. Companies must only demonstrate that they requested COFECO's opinion. ¶5. (U) There is some confusion over whether the new legislation also prohibits Mexican companies from partnering with foreign investors, including any neutral investor (i.e. an investment made in non-voting or limited voting shares). Under the current Telecommunications Law, foreign investors may own up to a 49 percent share of a company, but the new proposed Radio and Television Law forbids any foreign investment, including neutral investment. Since concession regulations and spectrum allocation are not adequately defined, it is difficult for experts to predict who will and won't be able to obtain concessions. ----------------------------- FAVORING THE DOMINANT PLAYERS ----------------------------- ¶6. (C) Econoffs and Econ Specialist met with Javier Lozano of the Regulatory and Technology Consulting Firm of Javier Lozano and Associates, S.C. on February 14. Lozano is the former Undersecretary of Communications as well as the former President of COFETEL. He considers himself to be pro-competition and pro-investment. Lozano currently has a regular column in the Mexican newspaper Universal, runs a telecommunications consulting firm with four other attorneys, and is a close advisor to the Calderon campaign. Although, MEXICO 00001080 002 OF 004 he says he currently keeps his consulting work and editorials on the telecom industry separate from the campaign, he admitted that he is not sure how long he will be able to manage both successfully and without conflict. ¶7. (C) Lozano believes the Radio and Television Law in the form passed by the Chamber of Deputies in December would make Mexico worse off in telecommunications competitiveness than if no reforms were passed at all. He believes the bill favors broadcasting giants like Televisa and TV Azteca, leaves an unfair playing field in the telecom sector, and fails to strengthen COFETEL's regulatory powers. ¶8. (C) Due to the bill's failure to grant COFETEL authority over licensing and concessions, Lozano believes that SCT can and will continue to delay issuance of licenses. He also believes the legislation, if passed, has the potential to weaken the telecommunications sector by allowing spectrum that is freed up by the digitalization process to be allotted to broadcasting companies for little or no cost, since the legislation does not establish a cost criteria. Most telecommunication companies have spent a considerable amount of money investing in spectrum and participating in concession auctions. Lozano believes the bill favors the broadcasting services by not requiring them to make a similar sacrifice, thus giving them an advantage over telecommunication companies by offering convergence technologies such as triple play services (voice, video and data) without having to wait for concessions and licenses. Lozano also said the bill fails to promote competition by not allowing foreign or neutral investment and favors already established companies like Televisa, Azteca, and Telmex. ----------------------------------------- OR ENCOURAGING TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT? ----------------------------------------- ¶9. (U) Lozano's views are at odds with the Director General of the consulting company Economic Competitive Intelligence Unit, Ernesto Piedras, a renowned telecommunications academic and telecommunications consultant. Piedras has also been outspoken in favor of the legislation because he says the bill groups Mexico's telecommunications and broadcasting industries under one legal framework, thus facilitating the Mexico's movement towards the convergence of technologies. ¶10. (U) According to Piedras the bill took the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) suggestion to have one agency regulate both sectors. He said that it is also taking the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) suggestion to require a congressional confirmation process for appointment of the COFETEL Commissioners even though the legislation actually states that the Senate may object to the appointment rather than requiring a formal approval process. ¶11. (U) Piedras also claims the legislation will help jump-start spectrum auctions and push COFETEL and the SCT to grant concessions through public auctions. Through the convergence of technologies like digitalization, spectrum will be freed up and companies will be able to bid for it through public auctions. Although he acknowledges that the TV companies could use the spectrum freed up by digitalization for triple play services, he doubts that they will because he believes the size of the spectrum is small. ¶12. (C) Lozano believes the bill in its current state has a 70 percent chance of passing in the Senate. He says the PRD is completely against it but the PAN and PRI are divided. However, with several key Senators harboring ambitions to become Governor (PAN Senator Hector Osuna, chair of the Telecommmunications and Transportation Committee, is planning a run for Governor of Baja California and PRI Senator Erick Rubio, also a member of the Telecommunications and Transportation Committee is planning a run for Governor of Yucatan) and impending competition for television companies' support for campaigning, all three parties have a strong incentive to see the bill pass within the next month. ¶13. (C) Several Senators and Deputies conveyed their thoughts to Poloff in recent weeks. Deputy Federico Madrazo (PRI), son of Presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, admits the Chamber's version of the bill has several flaws but believes the Senate has the opportunity to correct them. He argued that even an imperfect bill would be preferable to no bill. He noted that several companies were buying AM stations hoping that their concessions would be switched to more MEXICO 00001080 003 OF 004 lucrative FM concessions once the bill is implemented. Vice President of Congress Deputy Francisco Arroyo (PRI) said he is concerned that the bill will greatly strengthen large media companies, leaving them with tremendous power. Also, he worries that the big media companies may associate with large foreign media conglomerates, facilitating a "back door" entrance for foreign investment in the sector. ¶14. (C) Senator Gennaro Borrego (PRI) is still studying the bill to see if it favors the larger media companies, even though he admitted that they have a big interest in its passage. He expects the bill to pass this session. Senator Carlos Chaurand (PRI) says the smaller companies are at a major disadvantage if the bill becomes law but noted that the current law needs to be updated and that there are strong economic interests that favor adoption of the bill. Senator Cesar Jauregui (PAN) seemed to be one of the critics of the bill. He says the proposal is a PRI-initiated bill, drafted by the big media companies. He believes the PRI's introduction of the bill was the price they had to pay to get the media companies to back Madrazo this election season. He said the legislation, if passed, will give more power to the bigger media companies and will cause a loss of diversity among the media outlets. PAN Senator Hector Osuna, a major backer of the bill, has been criticized in the press as having a major conflict of interest in promoting the bill and has changed his opinion regarding telecommunication and broadcasting reforms many times. He owns G Tel Comunicaciones, an internet company that currently has a concession to offer triple play services and already has an advantage over many other telecommunications companies in competing with the broadcasting services to offer triple play. ¶15. (U) Academics such as Denise Dresser from Instituto Tecnologico Autonoma De Mexico (ITAM), a private University specializing in Economics, Dr. Raul Trejo Delarbre, an expert in Telecom and Social Policy from Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico (UNAM), and Ernesto Velasquez, Director of TV UNAM and a representative of community radio stations, have criticized the proposal. Dresser criticized Congress for supporting a bill that doesn't eliminate unfair practices and continues to leave power in the hands of monopolies. Velasquez complained that Televisa is distorting his statements to show that he and the entities he represents are in favor of the bill when they're not. Dr. Trejo says the spectrum freed up through the digitalization process would be adequate enough for Televisa to offer telecommunications services and noted that there was a "gap" in the proposal's language that doesn't oblige Televisa to pay for the spectrum nor for it to be sold in an auction by the Government. ¶16. (C) Econoff spoke with Nextel's Vice-President of Business Development Gustavo Cantu and Director of Communications and Institutional Relations Cristina Ruiz on February 24. Despite being among several U.S. companies publicly named in recent press articles as supporting the legislation, Nextel vehemently denied that it is supporting the measure. However, they noted that they are not opposing it either. Nextel has declined to make any comments to the press and it did not participate in any Congressional meetings on the subject. Nextel gives the bill poor technical marks but it doesn't want to fight the powers behind it (Televisa). Cantu believes the bill will enable the media companies to enter the telecommunications sector more easily but Nextel doesn't want to say anything that would suggest that they aren't in favor of more competition in the sector. Nextel said they have an agreement with the appropriate people that will enable them to have some influence over who is appointed to be the next COFETEL commissioners. Cantu is positive that other companies have made similar deals. ¶17. (C) When asked why CANIETI, the electronics industry chamber, abruptly changed its position and decided to support the bill after two months of complaining, Cantu simply answered "Televisa." Jaime Chico Pardo, CEO of Telmex, recently told Econ Mincouns and Econoff that he believed the bill, in its current state would "weaken" the telecommunication's industry. However, Cantu believes Telmex and Telcel are currently supporting the bill for the same reason as Nextel as well as for the most obvious reason - Telmex Chairman Carlos Slim is a major shareholder in Televisa. ¶18. (U) The Mexican media strongly criticized the SCT, MEXICO 00001080 004 OF 004 COFETEL, and COFECO for not commenting on a bill that would heavily impact their agencies' operations. However, when COFECO and COFETEL finally offered comments on February 22, lawmakers felt the agencies comments were unclear and confusing. COFETEL President Jorge Arredondo and COFECO President Eduardo Perez Motta said the proposed law fails to adequately address all the legal issues associated with concessions as well as transition to convergence technologies. Perez Motta said it also failed to give any power to COFETEL to sanction violation of the new law nor does the proposal include measure to avoid anti-competitive monopolistic practices. ------- COMMENT ------- ¶19. (C) The media has nicknamed the legislation the "Televisa bill" and suggested that Televisa will benefit greatly from its passage by eliminating potential competition. Lozano is probably correct in assuming that many interest groups and lawmakers are taking advantage of a time when most are overwhelmed with election issues to pass legislation that has so may deficiencies and special interest gains. In addition, with the campaign season in full swing, no one seems to want to upset Televisa or Azteca (which also stands to gain much from the bill) for fear of losing prime advertising slots at good prices. ¶20. (C) The failure of U.S.-owned telecommunications companies to oppose a bill that could have significant negative future consequences for them is also a telling sign that this bill is backed by the most powerful players in Mexico. It is also disappointing to watch them purposely support a policy that favors the status quo, i.e. the Mexican monopolies which they've continuously asked the U.S. Government's support in fighting for a more level playing field and greater access for foreign investment. ¶21. (C) Although some suspect Fox may veto the legislation if it's not modified, it's doubtful that he'll risk alienating Televisa at the end of his term. It's also doubtful that any Senator will want to risk their future political careers by rocking the boat at a time when all of the parties are deciding their political future. Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at KELLY



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