Pols probe pay TV in Mexico

Government backs fine against Televisa

MEXICO CITY

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s newly inducted government is offering signs it is willing to challenge entrenched interests in Mexico’s pay TV industry, particularly over increasingly concentrated cable markets.

It has ratified a $4.2 million fine against Televisa for monopolistic practices with its subsidiaries and is pushing for the passage of “must-carry” and “must-offer” laws that would pave the way for Mexico’s top two broadcasters, Televisa and TV Azteca, to charge cablers for content.

The moves come on the heels of Pena Nieto’s inaugural promise to add two new over-the-air nets in Mexico post haste.

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong restated the administration’s desire to reform the telecom industry in Mexico with broad implications for the Televisa and TV Azteca duopoly, as well as the feevee industry.

Televisa owns, or is a majority shareholder in, several cablers in Mexico, and by the third quarter of 2012 those companies carried 56% of all subscribers nationwide, according to data from the Latin American Multichannel Advertising Council (Lamac) and cabler association Canitec.

A November report from Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Commission said the telecom sector grew 15.1% in the third quarter, and there were 5.8 million cable subscribers — up 4.5% year-to-year — within 12.6 million feevee subs.

On Dec. 20 the Federal Competition Commission (CFC) also began a broader probe into alleged monopolistic practices in the pay TV industry.

The $4.2 million fine was levied against Televisa last year, but the conglom appealed. The CFC upheld the fine on Monday. Specifically, the CFC is charging Televisa for placing personnel from its cabler TVI on the board of GSF Telecom Holdings — the owner of mobile services carrier Iusacell. Televisa is currently in the review process for a merger with Iusacell, and the CFC says this breaks the rules it imposed to allow Televisa to take control of cabler Cablemas.

The CFC Monday also called on Congress to pass “must-carry” and “must-offer” legislation in an effort to improve competition in the pay TV and free-to-air market.

Urging Congress to act on a bill presented in November, the agency added, “It is necessary to guarantee access to over-the-air TV channels to other media of transmission, such as pay television.”

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