A report on media in Mexico – I would like your feedback on this info from pressreference.com
Background & General Characteristics
Mexico is located in Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, with the United States to its north and Belize and Guatemala to the south. The climate varies from tropical to desert, and its terrain consists of high, rugged mountains, low coastal plains, and high plateaus (desert). The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico was under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the nineteenth century. The language across the country is Spanish.
Economically, the country was affected by a devaluation of the peso in late 1994, which triggered the worst recession in over half a century. As of the early 2000s, however, the nation was making an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, and inequitable income distribution, with the top 20 percent of income earners accounting for 55 percent of income. Moreover, few advancement opportunities existed at the turn of the millennium for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states, one of which, the Chiapas, had been in open rebellion since 1994.
The literacy rate in Mexico is high with about 92 percent of the population (as of the early 2000s) over the age of 15 able to read and write. The Mexican population speaks Spanish, with a small percent speaking various Mayan, Nahautl, and other regional indigenous languages. The ethnic breakdown was as follows: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60 percent, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30 percent, white 9 percent, other 1 percent. About 89 percent were Roman Catholic, 6 percent Protestant, and 5 percent other.
In July, 2000, when Vicente Fox won the presidential election, a new federal political party, National Action Party (PAN), came into power after 71 years of another dominant party, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The government incorporates a mixture of U.S. constitutional theory and civil law system; it also has judicial review of legislative acts. Economically, the country is now a federal republic and favors a free market economy, with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry.
Quality of Journalism & its History
For most of the second half of the twentieth century, journalism was dominated by government officials and directives, often involving bribes. PRI routinely spied on journalists using the national intelligence agency, then the Center for Information and National Security. To make matters worse, journalists themselves had little professionalism and lacked higher education. The profession was a dangerous one, since police, the military, and drug lords routinely threatened and even assassinated journalists and their editors. Fortunately, the 2000 election gave the prospect of openness among the government departments and officials. In addition, attempts by privatized media outlets to engage in more objective journalism offered hope of journalism’s evolution in the twenty-first century.
Before journalism existed as it does in the modern world, Spain ruled Mexico for three centuries with an autocratic system opposed to any type of free press. A small elite class and a powerful Catholic clergy dominated Mexico. Nonetheless, printing presses existed in Mexico as early as 1536, and small circulation newspapers, such as the Gacetade in Mexico City, began to appear about 1660. These publications used political cartoons as a medium for attacking the authorities of both the state and church. General education was not available, and so illiteracy was high. In 1819, the Spanish were removed as colonial overlords, and Mexico declared its independence from Spain.
Throughout the nineteenth century, amid political instability, journalists pleaded for a free press and frequently cited U.S. newspapers and U.S. constitutional guarantees as models worth emulating. Yet the 1850s laws checked newspaper criticism of the government. Many Mexican presidents resorted to closing newspapers and imprisoning their employees. Prior to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, powerful individuals in the government and the church successfully bribed journalists. This practice of providing cash for coverage took hold quite easily throughout Mexico because journalists were so poorly paid. These bribes became known as embutes .
Following the revolution in 1910, a number of new papers started, particularly in Mexico City, for example, El Universal in 1916 and the Exelsior in 1917. During the 1920s and 1930s an alternative medium, radio, spread across Mexico. The ruling president awarded these licensed stations to his wealthy friends; therefore, criticism was non-existent. Then, too, the PRI party sustained its control for seven decades; it used broadcast media including television, particularly with Televisa, as a series of quasi-public relation stations. It makes sense then that Mexican electronic media did not confront official censorship: its owners were close friends of those who ruled. Extremely wealthy themselves, these owners had no reason to promote change that threatened to lead to a redistribution of wealth. To seal the arrangement, the Mexican media were characterized by gracetillas (advertisements paid for by the government), essentially propaganda pieces, which brought considerable revenue to radio and television stations.
Numbers of Newspapers
The most popular newspaper format seems to be daily, yet there are a number of weekly newspapers. Mexico’s national English newspaper is The News . It is part of Novedades Editores which publishes two papers and 15 magazines and has an online publication, TheNewsMexico.com . Another paper, Express , is mainly distributed in hotels and resorts. The average price of these papers ranges from 4 to 10 pesos.
The largest newspaper by circulation in Mexico, the tabloid Esto , had at 2002 a circulation of 385,000. The second largest, a scandal driven newspaper with a circulation of 330,000, was La Prensa . Next was El Universal , a widely respected paper with growing influence, with a circulation of 170,000. The fourth was El Financiero , a tabloid with a circulation of 147,000. Some of the smaller papers were: Reform (125,000); El Norte (119,000); ElM (100,000); La Jornada (100,924).
The Most Influential Newspaper
The most influential paper, El Universal from Mexico City, began in 1916.
Felix Fulgencio Palavicini started this paper to promote the ideas of the Mexican Revolution. Through a sequence of owners, the newspaper grew steadily. It implemented the latest technology and led the fight between press and government. During the 1980s El Universal fought to end the governmental monopoly on newsprint. In 2001 it initiated El Universal Online . In addition to this paper, the second and third most influential ones are Reform and La Jornada. In 2002, the Milenio and the La Presena still had the largest circulation, but their contents are based upon yellow (sensational) press. The three most influential magazines in Mexico are the Proceso (Politics), the Contenido , and the Siempre .
Mexico’s free market economy with its mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture was throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century increasingly dominated by the private sector. The number of state-owned enterprises in Mexico fell from more than 1,000 in 1982 to fewer than 200 in 2000. The Zedillo administration (1994-2000) privatized and expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, natural gas distribution, and airports.
A strong export sector helped to cushion the economy’s decline in 1995 and led the recovery in 1996-2000. Private consumption became the leading driver of growth in 2000, accompanied by increased employment and higher real wages. Entering the twenty-first century, Mexico still needed to modernize its economy and raise living standards. Trade with the United States and Canada had tripled since NAFTA was implemented in 1994. Moreover, in 2000, Mexico completed free trade agreements with the European Union (EU), Israel, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and it sought additional trade agreements with other countries in Latin America and Asia to lessen its dependence on the United States.
Types of Newspapers
As of the early 2000s, Mexico had about 340 dailies, most of which were morning editions. Most major cities had at least two competing dailies, with the exception of Mexico City, which had 25 to 30 dailies. Despite a population in Mexico City of about 2 million, the total circulation of all papers was only about 700,000 copies per day.
Newsprint was in 1935 handled by the government owned Productora Y Importa-dora de Papel (PIPSA). Its monopoly was created to provide low cost newsprint material for the newspapers, but over time it became a political weapon to be used against newspapers that carried negative stories about the PRI ruling federal party. PIPSA would punish newspapers that did not totally support the government by delaying deliveries of newsprint or it would send inferior newsprint. However, the 62-year old paper company lost its monopoly in 1990, and the new free market created much competition. PIPSA in the 1990s had uneven productivity and then slow growth. With some internal changes and by expanding facilities and product lines, PIPSA was able to claim 79 percent of the market. The average consumption of newsprint as of 2002 was about 378,000 metric tons, most of which supported daily newspaper production.
Of the following press laws, some applied to newspapers and others to the electronic media. The application of these laws, however, has been inconsistent at best. In general, friends of the ruling national party were able to avoid close monitoring or prosecution whereas critics of the government inevitably faced legal difficulties. However, under President Fox this historical trend seemed less prevalent and less likely to continue.
Constitutional Guarantees for the Press
Article 6 of the 1917 Constitution stipulates that the expression of ideas shall not be subject to any judicial or administrative investigation, unless it offends good morals, infringes the rights of others, incites to crime, or disturbs the public order.
Article 7 of the Constitution stipulates that freedom of writing and publishing writings is inviolable. The law specifies that no law or authority may establish censorship, require bonds from authors or printers, or restrict the freedom of printing, which is limited only by the respect due to private life, morals, and public peace. The law protects the publishing company, printing press, and employees such as vendors, newsboys, and workmen.
Constitutional Guarantees for Radio and Television
Article 4 stipulates that radio and television are activities of public interest; therefore, the state should supervise their carrying out of their specific social function. Moreover, Article 5 specifies that radio and television must contribute to strengthening national integration and the improvement of forms of human co-existence. Through their transmissions they should affirm the principles of social morals, human dignity, and family connection; avoid vicious or disturbing influences on children and young adults; contribute to raising the cultural level; preserve national customs, correct language, and the Mexican nationality; and strengthen democratic convictions, national unity, and international friendship and cooperation.
Senior governmental officials closely monitor daily newspaper coverage of the government. This scrutiny existed in the early 2000s despite the fact that the newspapers were mostly bought and read by educated urban people, the elite of whom tended to favor the government. Although the two major television-broadcasting outlets, Televisa and Aztec TV, are privately owned, they operate, as do newspapers, in accord with an unwritten rule that they do not criticize the president. However, in practice, media giants have little to fear because they are part of the ruling class that governs them. Journalists attend prestigious events including foreign trips with President Fox. Moreover, federal departments and agencies purchase considerable advertising.
Federal Radio and Television Law
Article 3 specifies that radio and television support mass education, disseminate knowledge, extend ideas that strengthen Mexican principles and traditions, and stimulate the capacity for progress, the creative faculty, and the objective analysis of the country’s affairs. Then Article 4 assures that this activity be conducted truthfully, within a framework of respect for private life and morals, without affecting the rights of third persons or disturbing public peace and order. In Article 5 recreational programs are given the mission of providing healthy entertainment that affirms national values, does not go against good customs, avoids corruption of language and vulgarity, and serves the purpose of ennobling the tastes of the audience. Article 6 states that radio and TV programming should contribute to the country’s economic growth, and Article 7 states that advertising should be responsible and in the national interest with an eye to balance in family spending.
In 2002 President Fox signed Mexico’s first freedom of information bill, which allows government documents to be review by the press as well as members of the public. The new law calls for all federal agencies, the federal courts, as well as the Bank of Mexico, to post their public information on the Internet within a year. Certain information, such as that pertaining to national security or foreign relations, has a 12-year waiting period. Finally, officials who hide, destroy, or fail to provide information may be fined, dismissed, or face criminal charges.
While the Mexican press purports to be free, it is a fact that dozens of journalists and editors were murdered in the 1980s and 1990s, among them Hector Felix Miranda (1988); coeditor of Tijuana Weekly (ZETA), Victor Manuel Oropeza (1991); and political columnist for Diario De Chihuahua , Jorge Martin Dorantes (1994). That this criminal activity continued was the result of corrupt officials, including police and military, and widespread failure to solve and successfully prosecute those responsible. With the Fox administration, hope increased that state-press relations in the early 2000s would substantially improve.
One of the Foreign News Bureaus represented in Mexico is the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). Consisting of a group of 71 national newspaper associations, with individual newspaper executives in 100 nations, 13 national and international news agencies, a media foundation, and 7 affiliated regional and worldwide press organizations, WAN represents more than 18,000 publications on five continents. It has three goals: to defend and promote press freedom and the economic independence of newspapers; to contribute to the development of newspaper publishing by fostering communications and contacts between newspaper executives from different regions and cultures; and to promote cooperation between WAN’s member organizations, whether national, regional or worldwide.
Also represented is the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which includes all major papers and many smaller rural papers in the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. A number of its executives are Mexican newspaper owners, publishers, or editors. The IAPA is dedicated toward promoting a free press. In addition, Grupo de Diarios-America (GDA), a consortium of the 12 most influential newspapers in Latin America, is present. In each country these newspapers are the public opinion leaders with maximum creditability. Each of the newspapers also has a dominant circulation and an upscale readership in its market. Members of GDA include: El Nacional and El Universal (Mexico City) and El Tiempo (Monclova).
As of 2002, four news agencies were operating in Mexico. Association de Editores de los Estados (AEE), domestic news association, subscribed to the foreign news association WAN. Also represented were Multimedios Estrellas de Oro (MEO); the governmental organization, Agencia Mexicana de Noticias (Notimex); and Reuters Mexico, the worldwide leader in financial information and services.
In 1997 there were 31 million radios in Mexico receiving broadcast from 865 AM stations, about 500 FM stations, and about 13 short-wave stations. Grupo Radio Centro, Mexico’s leading radio broadcaster, produced the most popular stations, most of which were located in Mexico City. Radio Centro had 20 production studios and produced virtually all of its own programming. A subsidiary, Organización Impulsora de Radio, served as a national sales representative and provided programming to more than 100 affiliate radio stations across Mexico.
In 1997 there were almost 30 million television sets owned across Mexico receiving 236 television broadcasting stations. As of 2002, Grupo Televisa was the largest Spanish speaking communication conglomerate in the world. It began with radio under the leadership of Emilio Azcarraga. The company expanded into television in the 1970s, and afterward it became a multi-media corporation. In the early 2000s, it was Mexico’s largest television network controlling over 300 stations across four networks. Almost 60 percent of the corporation’s revenues came from television, particularly the successful export of Spanish soap operas, known as telenovelas . Moreover, with the expansion of the Spanish speaking population in the United States, the U.S. market for Grupo Televisa products of all types increased substantially. Televisa owned 17 radio stations along with music labels, mobile phones, satellite interests, and other businesses. On the print side, Televisa controlled Edivisa, S.A. de C.V, a publishing giant with over 40 Spanish magazines, including a weekly television guide and other popular products. Edivisa also published Spanish versions of Elle , Cosmopolitan , and Harper’s Bazaar .
The television-broadcasting segment included the production of television programming and nationwide broadcasting of Channels 2, 4, 5, and 9 (television networks), and the production of television programming and broadcasting for local television stations in Mexico and the United States. The broadcasting of television networks was performed by television repeater stations in Mexico that were as of 2002 wholly-owned, majority-owned, or minority-owned by the Group or otherwise affiliated with the Group’s television network station broadcasts.
The programming for the pay television segment included programming services to cable and pay-per-view television companies in Mexico, other countries in Latin America, the United States, and Europe. The programming services consisted of both programming produced by the Group and programming produced by others. Programming for pay television revenues were derived from domestic and international programming services provided to the independent cable television systems in Mexico and the Group’s DTH satellite businesses and formed the sale of advertising time on programs provided to pay television companies in Mexico.
The programming licensing segment consisted of the domestic and international licensing of television programming. Programming licensing revenues were derived from domestic and international program licensing fees. The cable television segment included the operation of a cable television system in the Mexico City metropolitan area and derived revenues principally from basic and premium service subscription and installation fees from cable subscribers, pay-per-view fees, and local and national advertising sales. The radio segment included the operation of six radio stations in Mexico City and eleven other domestic stations owned by the Group. Revenues were derived by advertising and by the distribution of programs to nonaffiliated radio stations. The other business segments included the Group’s domestic operations in sports and show business promotion, soccer, nationwide paging, feature film production and distribution, Internet, and dubbing services for Mexican and multinational companies.
Electronic News Media
As of 2002, only 5 percent of Mexicans had web access, but places such as Internet Cafes were becoming popular after school destinations. Expanding access was a major government priority. The Internet growth rate in Mexico given its lower base is the second highest in Latin America, only exceeded by that of Brazil. Mexico is a newly industrialized country with a growing economy largely due to the success of NAFTA. But the economic development has not seen equally successful movement to Internet and e-commerce business. Across Mexico Internet access in the early 2000s was still not sufficient to supply the necessary critical mass to customers. In addition many Mexican customers simply lacked the money to purchase online. The Mexican federal government wanted to upgrade the country’s telecommunication system so that Internet access would be available in rural as well as urban areas by 2010. Collectively a number of forces in Mexico were converging to promote electronic news, and information services.
The early 2000s saw a number of online newspaper websites in Spanish: from Mexico City, El Universal , El Financiero, ReformaLa JornadaMexico Hoy , and Crónica ; in addition, 11 other newspaper websites in various regions across the country. Finally, two U.S. newspapers, San Antonio Express News and San Diego Union Tribune-Mexico, had special Mexican news sites.
Access Mexico Connect, popularly known as Mex-Connect, was in the early 2000s a very successful free monthly electronic magazine focusing on information about Mexico and promoting Mexico to the world. The electronic magazine was supported by a searchable database of over 10,000 Mexican related articles. It received over a half million hits per month, and 80 percent of its users were located in one of three countries, the United States, Mexico, and Canada. As of 2002 it was Mexico’s most read English site and ranked in the top 5 percent of
all Internet sites in the world. In addition it offered a resource center with a variety of Mexican activities such as classified aids, tourism, employment, email, and other e-commerce activities. MexConnect sought to promote Mexican trade, advertising, and commerce around the world.
Education & TRAINING
In the early 2000s, the education and training of journalists was a joint effort. One international organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), is headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The not-for-profit institute, made up of 4,000 reporters, editors, and academics, intends to work with Mexican journalists to launch a Mexican Reporting Institute. The primary objectives of the institute are to train Mexican reporters, broadcasters, and editors in advanced reporting skills; to develop a cooperative network of journalists throughout Mexico; and to support efforts of Mexican journalists to improve public access to information.
Six institutions in Canada, the United States, and Mexico participate in a Journalism and Globalization Program (JAG) that provides selected students with journal experience in an international setting. Besides offering students the opportunity to expand their cultural and global perspectives, JAG challenges them to think about alternative methods of reporting. The participating schools in Canada are Mount Royal College in Calgary and Humber College in Toronto. In the United States the participating schools are the University of Iowa and University of Georgia, and in Mexico the participating institutions are Universidad de Colima and Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara.
Historically, the Mexican press has been compromised by violence and criminal activity. Yet press laws in the twentieth century and governmental changes in the early 2000s suggested reasons to hope for the continued evolution of an increasingly professional press. With the additional help of NAFTA, these changes bode well for the future of the Mexican media. The passage in 2002 of a freedom of information act indicated that journalists and others would in the early twenty-first century be able to obtain government documents denied to them for generations. Then, too, increasing numbers of well-educated, professional journalists entering the profession would improve it. As traditional print sources in Mexico migrate to electronic services along with new entrants such as MexConnect, media in Mexico are bound to find their place in the global market.
- 1994: NAFTA agreement is signed by Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
- 1994: Chiapas revolt begins.
- 2000: President Fox is elected.
- 2002: Freedom of Information Act is signed into law.
Adler, Ilya. “Press-Government Relations in Mexico: A Study of Freedom of the Mexican Press and Press Criticism of Government Institutions.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, vol.12 (1993): 1-30.
Barrera, Vivian and Denise Bielby. “Places, Faces, and Other Familiar Things: The Cultural Experience of Telenovela Viewing Among Latinos in the United States.” Journal of Popular Culture vol. 34, 4 (2001): 1-19.
McAnany, Emile and Antonio La Pastina. “Telenovela Audiences.” Communication Research, vol. 21, 6 (Dec 1994): 828-847.
McPhail, Thomas. Global Communication: Theories, Stakeholders, and Trends . Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2002.
Perkins, Michael. “Freedom(s) of the Press in Latin America.” Gazette 64 (2002): 5-19.
Vargas, Jocelyn. “Expanding the Popular Culture Debates: Puertorriqueñas, Hollywood, and Cultural Identity.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, 15 (1996): 155-174.