Mexico: “Mexican Media Moguls Field Brook Bros. Riot Squad Against Elections Reform”

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“Chronicle of a frustrated coup”: Proceso magazine, August 2007

The senators who drafted this constitutional amendment were confronted by a de facto branch of government that yesterday had names and nicknames, applied massive pressure, and did not hesistate to cross-examine, threaten and even insult lawmakers, whom they accused of trying to return to the era of the Soviet Union.

Senado y poderes fácticos chocan en el marco de la reforma electoral: “Senate and de facto powers clash over elections reform.” La Jornada reports.

Mexican lawmakers decided to bork the head of the federal elections commission and ban paid political advertising outright. In response, media moguls called them Stalinists.

Literally. Compare

From Chicago to Tierra del Fuego, these people can be relied upon to gabble from the same hymnal.

When IFE either bungled or rigged the national quick count in last year’s presidential elections — I personally am convinced they out and out rigged it — an extremely well-funded COPARMEX-sponsored astroturf ad campaign ran 24-7 on Televisa and Azteca trying to quash the idea that IFE was either incompetent or crooked.

It was an astonishing exercise in the banana-republican guilty plea, hammering on the straw-man argument that citizen poll workers, “your friends, neighbors and loved ones,” could not possibly be crooked.

Which is a red herring. The election fraud was alleged to have occurred after the actual voting, mostly. In a classic mapacheria operation coordinated with cooked PREP quick count results.

The firm IFE hired to do the quick count is owned by Calderón’s brother-in-law.

Hello?

See also

What was especially galling is that a big part of IFE’s mandate is provide oversight of political advertising on radio and TV. Technically, skeevy lying and prevaricating, for example, is against the law.

La libertad de expresión, bandera de empresarios y conductores; al final reconocieron que su molestia es por la prohibición de contratar propaganda política en medios electrónicos.

“Freedom of expression” is the watchword of media owners and talking heads; in the end they acknowledged that what they are perturbed by is the ban on selling political advertising on electronic media.

Las grandes cadenas de televisión y radio enviaron ayer al Senado de la República a sus representantes legales y a la mayoría de los conductores y comentaristas de sus principales noticieros, con el fin de exigir que se posponga la aprobación de la reforma electoral bajo el argumento –esgrimido entre otros por Joaquín López Dóriga– de que restringe la libertad de expresión.

The major TV and radio networks dispatched their legal representatives and most of the talking heads and pundits from the major newscasts to the Mexican Senate yesterday in order to demand the postponement of elections reform, under the argument — articulated by Televisa’s López Dóriga, among others — that it restricts freedom of expression.

Banana-republic freedom of expression, that is, according to which, if the people tune in to [monopoly] networks that lie to them, then they must prefer to be lied to.

They are exercising their freedom of choice between truth and comforting lies! It’s the genius of the free market!

More after I have a couple of caipirinhas at the local boteco.

Sin embargo, los directivos de la Cámara Nacional de la Industria de Radio y Televisión (CIRT) acabaron por reconocer que su molestia es por la prohibición de contratar propaganda electoral en medios electrónicos.

However, board members of the National Chamber of the Radio and TV Industry (CIRT) wound up acknowledging that their objection is to the ban on selling campaign advertising on broadcast networks.

Los senadores que dictaminan esa reforma constitucional se enfrentaron a un poder fáctico que ayer tuvo nombres y apellidos, presionó a fondo y no dudó en cuestionar, amenazar e inclusive insultar a los legisladores, a los que se acusó de tratar de regresar a la era de la URSS. La respuesta más puntual de los senadores la dieron el perredista Pablo Gómez, el panista Ricardo García Cervantes y María de los Angeles Moreno, del PRI.

The senators who drafted this constitutional amendment were confronted by a de facto branch of government that yesterday had names and nicknames, applied massive pressure, and did not hesistate to cross-examine, threaten and even insult lawmakers, whom they accused of trying to return to the era of the Soviet Union. The most succinct response from senators came from Pablo Gómez of the PRD, Ricardo García Cervantes of PAN and María de los Angeles Moreno of the PRI.

Gómez Alvarez les recordó a los empresarios que tienen bajo concesión un bien propiedad de la nación. Ante ello, la postura de los visitantes fue subiendo de tono. “Aquí está la CIRT junta, completa y unísona; nunca habíamos estado tan unidos como en esta ocasión. No venimos a dialogar, venimos a reaccionar”, advirtió a gritos Pedro Ferriz de Con, conductor de noticias de Grupo Imagen, propiedad del empresario Olegario Vázquez Raña.

Gómez Alvarez reminded the media owners that they operate under a concession of public property. In light of that argument, the vistors began to lower their tone. “CIRT is here in force, united; we have never been so united as now. We did not come to engage in dialogue, we came to react,” screamed Pedro Ferriz de Con, news anchor of the Imagen Group, which is owned by Olegario Vázquez Raña.

According to his Wikipedia autohagiography by proxy, Vázquez Raña is principally a vertical consolidator of airport management, transport, and hotels.


Above: Felipe Calderón of PAN receives crucial support from Brozo the Televisa ambush interview clown. Note Calderón’s trademark “Mussolini fist pump” gesture. Source: YouTube. The Brozo videoscandals — part of a bid to impeach and disqualify Calderón’s main political rival — were bogus in their vast majority. See also Of Smoking Death, Allen Funt and News Clowns: The Week in Latin American Media.

“¡Nos van a arruinar los ratings!”

“You are going to ruin our ratings!”

Antes, el dueño de una de las radiodifusoras más poderosas del país, Radio Fórmula, Rogerio Azcárraga, resumió el descontento de los concesionarios: “¡Nos van a quitar 30 por ciento del tiempo sin pagar un solo centavo, además de arruinar los ratings!”, exclamó. Sostuvo que pasará lo mismo que con el programa radiofónico La Hora Nacional, porque nadie verá los anuncios de los partidos.

Previously, Rogerio Azcárraga, the owner of one of Mexico’s most powerful radio networks, Rádio Formula, had summed up the concession-holders’ complaint: “You are going to take away 30 percent our airtime without paying a single cent, as well as ruining our ratings!” he exclaimed. He argued that the same would happen with the radio program [The National Hour] because no one would see the ads of the political parties.

Entre aplausos de los comunicadores que llenaron el salón del quinto piso de la Torre de El Caballito, donde las comisiones dictaminadoras recibieron a los representantes de los concesionarios, Azcárraga –quien aclaró que nada tiene que ver con el dueño de Televisa, Emilio Azcárraga Jean– sostuvo que la reforma “es casi expropiatoria” y aseguró que llevará a la quiebra a 950 estaciones de radio.

Accompanied by applause from the journalists who filled the hall on the fifth floor of the El Caballito office tower, where the drafting committees met with the representatives of concession-holders, Azcárraga — who explained that he has nothing to do with Televisa owner Emilio Azcárraga Jean — argued that the reform is “almost an expropriation” and that it would lead to the bankruptcy of 950 radio stations.

Rogerio is Emilio’s uncle.

Hasta antes de la intervención del empresario, los concesionarios, sus comentaristas y conductores de noticieros se habían centrado en defender la libertad de expresión, apoyados por senadores de Convergencia y del Verde Ecologista, entre estos últimos, Javier Orozco, uno de los impulsores de la llamada ley Televisa, que luego invalidó la Suprema Corte de Justicia.

Prior to this statement by the owner of Radio Formula, the concession-holders, along with their pundits and talking heads, had focused on defending the freedom of expression, with the support of Senators from Convergence and the Green party, including Green senator Orozco, one of the prime movers behind the so-called “Televisa Law” that was later struck down by the Supreme Court.

What is it with Green parties these days? They seem to make all kinds of weird Faustian bargains.

La defensa de Luis Carlos Ugalde y los demás consejeros del Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), que por varios días fue su tema favorito, ayer quedó en el olvido. Poco después de las 2 de la tarde, los directivos de la CIRT y su séquito de “estrellas” mediáticas fueron recibidos por los integrantes de las comisiones dictaminadoras, que previamente presentaron los cambios al proyecto de reforma electoral consensuados entre las tres principales fuerzas políticas.

The defense of Ugalde and the other IFE commissioners, which for days had been their favorite topic, was now forgotten. A little after 2pm, CIRT board members and their retinue of media “stars” were received by members of the drafting committee, which had just presented changes to the elections reform bill on which the three principal parties had reached consensus.

El presidente de la CIRT, Enrique Pereda, se quejó de que no fueron consultados para llevar a cabo un cambio tan importante, que da a los partidos políticos el derecho de “usar la radio y la televisión” a través de los tiempos del Estado.

CIRT president Enrique Pereda complained that CIRT was not consulted on these significant changes, which give political parties the right to “use radio and TV” during time reserved for [public service messages.]

Francisco Aguirre, presidente del Grupo Radiocentro, y Francisco Ibarra, de Grupo Acir, reforzaron los cuestionamientos y acusaron a los legisladores de no sujetar a los partidos a reglas de transparencia. Tristán Canales, de TvAzteca, preguntó si no es mucho 48 minutos al día en cada estación de radio y televisión.

Francisco Aguirre, president of the Radiocentro Group, and Francisco Ibarra, of the Acir Group, reinforced these criticisms and accused lawmakers of not subjecting political parties to the rules of transparency. Tristán Canales of TV Azteca asked whether 48 minutes a day on every radio and TV station is not too much.

López Dóriga criticó a su vez el contenido del artículo 41, en el que se prohíbe difundir mensajes en radio y televisión “susceptibles de influir en las preferencias electorales de los ciudadadanos, ni a favor ni en contra de partidos o candidatos”.

López Dóriga, the [Bill Gates-adoring Televisa] anchorman criticized the wording of Article 41 in which its prohibited to broadcast message “likely to influence the electoral preferences of citizens, whether in favor or in opposition to parties or candidates.”

Sostuvo que esa redacción atenta contra la libertad de expresión, pues la crítica a políticos equivaldría a violar la Constitución, “lo que me parece algo gravísimo”.

He argued that this language violates freedom of expression, because now criticizing politicians would be unconstitutional, “which to me seems a very serious matter indeed.”

We are talking here about advertising, of course, not journalistic content. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, not Bill O’Reilly.

Un poco después, Paty Chapoy, del programa Ventaneando, de Tv Azteca, reforzó esa idea al preguntar a los senadores si se convertiría en “criminal” al hablar de políticos y señalar –por ejemplo– que un gobernador “es guapo”.

A little later, Paty Chapoy of TV Azteca’s Ventaneando reinforced this argument, asking the senators if they meant to “criminalize” talking about politicians, pointing out, for example, that a governor is “handsome.”

El senador Ricardo Monreal Avila aclaró a López Dóriga que la redacción del artículo 41 constitucional fue modificada para evitar que la prohibición del pago de propaganda electoral en radio y televisión se interprete como la prohibición de la crítica a políticos en los medios electrónicos.

Senator Monreal explained to López Doriga that the text of Article 41 was amended to avoid having the ban on paid campaign advertising be interpreted as a ban on criticism of politicians in the broadcast media generally.

The Televisa anchor was dressed in a bright pink sweater. Is he trying to tell us something?

Igualmente, el senador del Partido Revolucionario Institucional Jesús Murillo Karam respondió a los concesionarios que no hay intención alguna de atentar contra la libertad de expresión y aclaró que en este sexenio el ahorro por la disminución de gastos en campañas será de 4 mil millones de pesos.

Likewise, PRI senator Murillo Karam told concession-holders that there is no intention of imfringing on freedom of expression, explaining that in the current federal administration the savings on campaign expenditures will be 4 billion pesos.

Sin embargo, los concesionarios de radio y televisión siguieron insistiendo. Javier Tejado Dondé, funcionario de Televisa, acusó a los senadores de pretender estatizar la radio y la televisión, de otorgar en realidad más recursos a los partidos políticos, y deseó que la reunión no fuera sólo “para tapar el ojo al macho”.

However, the concession-holders were insistent. Javier Tejado Dondé, a Televisa executive, accused the senators of trying to nationalize radio and TV, effectively granting more resources to political parties, and expressed a desire not to see the meeting serve merely “to pull the wool over our eyes.”

Pero fue la intervención de Pedro Ferriz de Con la que mostró la verdadera y furibunda cara de los concesionarios. Representante de la emisora beneficiada durante el sexenio foxista, el conductor dijo a los legisladores: “Se me hace una postura pueril y ridícula que le pasen a terceros el costo de los gastos de campaña”.

But it was the statement by Ferriz de Con that showed the true face of the enraged concession-holders. Representing a media group that received political favor during the Fox years, the anchorman told lawmakers: “It seems ridiculous and childish to pass on to third parties the costs of political campaigns.”

También, a gritos, señaló: “Ya estoy cansado de tanta palabrería. Nosotros pagamos impuestos, nadie nos ha regalado nada, se los recuerdo”. Además, acusó a los representantes populares de frenar el desarrollo del país y les reprochó que no hubieran permitido a Felipe Calderón rendir su Informe de gobierno.

Yelling, he also said: “I am tired of all this blah blah blah. We pay taxes, no one is getting a free ride here, I remind you.” He accused lawmakers of holding back Mexico’s development and reproached them for not letting Calderón deliver his State of the Union address.

A los empresarios de la radio y la televisión se sumaron los legisladores de los partidos Verde y Convergencia. Dante Delgado, de esta última fuerza política, se sumó a la demanda de los concesionarios de posponer la aprobación de la reforma.

Radio and TV owners were joined by Green and Convergence lawmakers. Dante Delegado of the Greens backed the demand to postpone approval of the reform.

Entonces, el perredista Pablo Gómez hizo frente a la andanada. De entrada, señaló que la Constitución es muy clara al precisar que la soberanía reside en el pueblo y que el Congreso tiene la representación popular y es sujeto de “críticas, insultos y denuestos, porque forman parte de la libertad de expresión”.

Gómez of the PRD then took the lead. To start with, he pointed out that the Constitution states very clearly that sovereignty resides in the people and that Congress represents the people and is subject to “criticism, insults and scorn, because those are part of freedom of expression.”

Recordó también que la libertad de expresión de que hoy se goza en el país fue producto de un movimiento democrático que costó muchas vidas, y que lo que se quiere restringir en la reforma electoral es el poder del dinero, para que los partidos no estén bajo la presión de tener que conseguir donde sea y como sea recursos económicos para poder aparecer en las pantallas.

He also recalled that the freedom of expression Mexicans now enjoy was the product of a democratic movement that cost many lives, and that what the reform means to rein in is the power of money, so that political parties will not suffer pressure to raise funds from any and all sources simply in order to get airtime.

Están en contra de que se legisle, sostuvo Gómez, porque “ustedes recibían en conjunto miles de millones de pesos, la mayoría, las grandes cadenas de televisión”. Mordaz, el perredista les pidió no preocuparse, ya que no es ahora cuando se busca modificar al duopolio televisivo. “Eso será después, en la ley de radio y televisión”.

The owners were against the law, Gómez said, because “you jointly earn billions of pesos, with most of it going to the major TV networks.” Acidly, the PRD lawmaker told them not to worry, because the moment has not yet arrived to modify the current duopoly. “That will come later, with the new radio and TV law.”

La priísta María de los Angeles Moreno aclaró a su vez que no se intenta tener el control de los órganos electorales, sino que sean instituciones ciudadanizadas, y el panista Ricardo García Cervantes cerró la pinza al desmentir a Tejado Dondé y señalarle que es falso que se vaya a duplicar el gasto de campaña en los procesos electorales.

The PRI senator María de los Angeles Moreno explained that control is not being taken away from election authorities, but that those agencies are being “citizenized.” The PAN senator, García Cervantes, completed the pincer movement by refuting Tejado Dondé’s point, pointing out that it is not the case that the measure would double public spending on electoral campaigns.

“Vamos a salir al paso a cualquier intención ilegítima que irrumpa en procesos electorales y la principal irrupción es el dinero, porque no se sabe si es dinero sucio o limpio”, agregó.

“We are going to head off any illegal attempts to disrupt election campaigns. The principal disrupter is money, because we do not know whether the money is dirty or clean,” he added.

Después de casi cuatro horas, el poder mediático abandonó la sede senatorial; querían seguir hablando, pero el priísta Pedro Joaquín Coldwell dio por concluido el encuentro. Al despedirse, el presidente de la Cámara Nacional de la Industria de Radio y Televisión, Pereda, le pidió a varios senadores no aprobar “con prisas” la reforma electoral. Pero no tuvo éxito, el dictamen se aprobó horas después.

After nearly 4 hours, the media retreated from the Senate; they wanted to keep talking, but PRI senator Joaquín Coldwell closed the meeting. On takin his leave, CIRT president Pereda asked the senators not to approve the reform “hastily.” But in vain: The measure was approved several hours later.

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