Mexico watchdog growls at Televisa, TV Azteca

Duo's lawsuits could delay switch to digital

MEXICO CITY — The head of Mexico’s congressional telco panel spoke out against eight lawsuits issued by Mexico’s dominant broadcasters Televisa and TV Azteca lodged to delay the nation’s digital switchover in 2015 and called on Congress to authorize a $28 million test run in Tijuana in April.

Speaking at a pro-consumer event in Mexico City Tuesday, Federal Telecommunications Commission (Cofetel) president Mony de Swaan noted the urgent need to free up the critical bandwidth used by broadcasters in the 700 MHz spectrum to allow growth in industries using mobile and Internet applications.

“The 700 MHz band is too valuable to keep using it for television,” said De Swaan, noting that the lawsuits have not yet slowed down the rollout but that they threaten to do so.

De Swaan also said that Televisa and Azteca have more to lose than to gain by holding on to the bandwidth, and by holding out, they were showing “a lack of responsibility” to consumers.

Televisa and Azteca are unwilling to give up the bandwidth and open up the market to more TV rivals on DTT.

Four of the suits, filed in early August, blocked the start of an auction scheduled for that month to select bids on a third, and possibly a fourth, digital terrestrial broadcast slot.

President Felipe Calderon, whose term ends at the end of November, is an ardent supporter of the move to DTT and is making every effort to begin the bidding while still in office.

Under the current framework, a litany of requirements must be met before the switchover can happen, including the completion of the licensing auction and an expansion of DTT signal to reach 90% of the population.

Televisa has longed ruled the airwaves in Mexico as a virtual monopoly until the government intervened in 1993 to allow TV Azteca to broadcast. The two now control roughly 95% of the nation’s over-the-air market share.