Mexico holds off on new broadcast licenses

NBC Universal’s Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo remains optimistic about breaking into the Mexican TV market, despite the government’s decision not to offer new licenses before the end of 2008.

Gaining a foothold in Mexico is key for Telemundo, both as a new market and as a way to build word-of-mouth among Mexican migrants in the U.S., who are more drawn to familiar telenovelas supplied by Mexican media conglom Televisa than to Telemundo’s U.S. rival Univision.

While Mexico’s communications and transport minister Luis Tellez’s license decision makes Telemundo’s goal seem less likely, there is a growing political backlash against the power of dominant broadcaster Televisa and its smaller rival TV Azteca.

“Today more than ever, we see with much interest, that Mexico has formed a consensus in favor of there being more competition in the television market,” Telemundo said in a statement.

Telemundo formed a partnership with Mexican firm Grupo Xtra last year to seek a license in Mexico. The web has opened studios in Mexico City and will begin shooting its first telenovela at the end of October.

During his campaign, President Felipe Calderon promised to go after greater competition in the TV market, but he backed down after taking office last December.

However, Telemundo’s hopes could be bolstered by a current debate among lawmakers to revamp the nation’s media laws and curb the power of Televisa and TV Azteca.

Lawmakers have been gunning to take the duopoly down a notch after the webs bullied lawmakers during last year’s election season into passing a law that made it harder for new players to enter the market.

The bill exposed the immense sway Mexico’s TV powers have over politicians in a country where most people get their news from one of the two broadcasters.

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