Proposals for Third Television Network Resurface, but Timetable Remains Unclear

Article excerpt

Mexico could authorize the creation of a third television network sometime in the near future, possibly within the next two years, although some members of the telecommunications commission (Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones, COFETEL) caution that more technical studies are necessary to make the final determination. Proponents of a third network argue that a new outlet would bring more democracy to the television-broadcast airwaves, which are currently dominated by the Televisa and TV Azteca networks. But creating a third network from scratch seems like the most remote of the options at this point, with one of the informal proposals before regulators to grant a proposal from giant telecommunications company TELMEX, owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, to offer limited television-broadcast services.

The proposal to create a third network in Mexico was part of the telecommunications debate leading to the passage of the existing broadcast law (Ley Federal de Radio y Television, LEFERYT) in 2006. The law ultimately ceded control of the television-broadcast airwaves to Televisa and TV Azteca SourceMex, April 5, 2006, in contrast with public demands for a more democratic allocation of the airwaves SourceMex, Oct. 13, 2004 and May 25, 2005.

In 2007, Mexico's high court invalidated several provisions of the LEFERTY, opening the doors for the Congress to make changes to ensure that the broadcast law complies with the Mexican Constitution SourceMex, May 16, 2007. One of the SCJN's most important decisions was to reject a provision in the LEFERYT that would have granted current concessions holders almost exclusive rights to digital broadcasts. The government is in the process of converting the old analog system to a digital spectrum SourceMex, June 20, 2007.

COFETEL has opened the possibility that a third network could happen soon. But the agency has been vague about details, and no plans have been announced on how concessions would be handled to ensure that any suitors would open opportunities to provide a greater public voice in the broadcast industry. In a recent interview, COFETEL president Mony de Swaan suggested that the parameters to open applications for a third and maybe a fourth network could be ready by the end of 2011 or perhaps sometime in the first half of 2012. He raised the possibility that the parties that won the concessions could begin operations by the end of 2012.

But another COFETEL commissioner, Gonzalo Martinez Pous, said the timetable proposed by de Swaan was a little overoptimistic because there is not even a plan in place to handle concessions. "We cannot talk about opening bids for a process that we have never conducted in our country," said Martinez Pous. "We need sophisticated analyses, including a technical study to determine which frequencies are free and which frequencies will not cause interference. We also need a marketing study to determine if conditions exist to create new channels or networks."

Martinez Pous also cited the need for an extensive consultation process allowing the broadest range of opinions. …