Mexico Supreme Court voids TV law

Admits giving broadcasters unfair privileges

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court gutted a recent media law that kept out networks such as NBC Universal’s Telemundo.

The justices threw out several key provisions in a new media law Tuesday, saying they unfairly privileged Mexico’s top broadcasters.

Added to previous votes from last week, the Supreme Court has effectively voided the media-law reform critics said was tailored to benefit media conglom Televisa and its smaller rival TV Azteca at the expense of new competitors like NBC Universal-owned Telemundo, which is seeking to enter Mexico.

In a preliminary vote Tuesday, the high court stuck down an article that would have allowed holders of broadcast licenses to offer telecommunications and data services at will, without having to pay any fees or seeking permission.

Justices also struck down 20-year license terms, and ruled that awarding licenses to the highest bidder, without any other criteria, was unconstitutional.

Televisa and TV Azteca stock slid on the news, with Televisa shares shedding 58¢, or 2% in New York to close at $28.15.

Last week, the Supreme Court threw out another key article that would have allowed landed broadcasters the right to automatically renew their licenses.

The decisions, which must be ratified in a final vote, will render the media reform, approved last year, effectively useless, and send lawmakers back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, the process of awarding new licenses will remain in limbo.

A group of lawmakers filed the challenge before the Supreme Court last year after Congress approved the reform during a heated presidential election. Top lawmakers have since admitted the bill was approved under pressure from party bosses who feared their candidates could lose airtime on the major broadcasters if they didn’t approve the legislation as lobbyists directed.

“The ambition of Televisa and TV Azteca has backfired in their face, because now they will be subjected to greater regulation,” former Sen. Javier Corral, one of the most vocal opponents of the reform, told reporters after the ruling.

Together, Televisa and TV Azteca hold 95% of broadcasting licenses in Mexico.

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