Broadcaster failed to run political ads

MEXICO CITY — After hours of heated debate, Mexico’s Federal Electoral Commission (IFE) slapped a whopping 22 million pesos ($1.7 million) fine on No. 2 broadcaster TV Azteca Tuesday for failing to run 5,734 political spots in May.

The penalty is the highest ever levied against a media outlet in Mexico — but it could have been much heavier.

The motion put before a special session of IFE’s general council had called for a $4.7 million fine.

Electoral reforms require broadcasters to run ads for political parties free in primetime, but Azteca failed to comply.

IFE began sanctioning the conglom in March, fining them twice more since. However, all three fines add up to only $451,000 — an amount the broadcaster easily made back by selling ads in those slots.

This latest fine is far more significant, amounting to a sizable chunk of the $24.3 million net profit the web reported in its second quarter.

The IFE’s general counsel has said the exponential increase in the fine was due to the “repeated” and “especially grave” violation of the law.

The new electoral law levels the playing field between parties by taking the cost of advertising on TV out of the equation.

The IFE also has fined top broadcaster Televisa — a much larger, wealthier company — but to a lesser degree.

Historically, many Mexicans see the two webs as mouthpieces for the political preferences of its billionaire owners, Televisa’s Emilio Azcarraga Jean and Azteca’s Ricardo Salinas Pliego.

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