Mexican Broadcasters Prepare to Repel All Borders

07 December 2006

MEXICO CITY: Rival TV companies in Mexico have formed a guerilla alliance to resist an invader from the North. Grupo Televisa and TV Azteca believe the second biggest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US, NBC Universal unit Telemundo, is about to enter their territory.

Believing that attack is the best form of defense, their tactic has been to air news reports on the high cost of medicines endured by poor Mexicans.

However, what this high-minded crusade against 'evil' pharmaceutical distributor Grupo Casa Saba, fails to mention is that billionaire head honcho Isaac Saba Raffoul partners Telemundo. And that he has formally applied for a Mexican broadcast license.

The allies, who control almost the entire broadcast TV industry in the country, deny any ulterior motive in their pursuit of Saba.

Televisa spokesman Manuel Compean says emphatically: "The high cost of medicines in a poor country with great health needs is a real issue, and it is not related to Saba and his other businesses."

And both confirm they are happy to compete in the domestic TV market. The country's recently elected president Felipe Calderón has said Mexico should have a third broadcast company.

Despite the smooth words from Televisa and Azteca - both of which have made significant inroads in the US - Telemundo is finding it tough to stake its Mexican claim.

Its president, Donald Browne, says: "We want to do the same thing in Mexico that Televisa and TV Azteca do in the US. They are able to distribute in the US, and we would like to have an opportunity to distribute our own product."

He adds: "We're looking for just a reasonable playing field — not even even — just to be able to show our product in Mexico."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff