“The Pact for Mexico is not only alive, it is vigorous,” PRI national party chief Cesar Camacho Quiroz said at the ceremony, denying reports it may be faltering.
In some ways, the latest move marked the PRI’s continuing effort to raze some of the structures that it had erected to rule Mexico during its 71-year unbroken reign that ended in 2000. Past PRI governments looked at Televisa as a political tool to help it retain power, and TelMex and cellular service concessions were sold to businessmen the PRI saw as friendly.
In announcing the urgency of the telecom reform, Communications and Transport Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza cited a study conducted in 2012 by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that said Mexico economic growth was 1.8 percent lower because of the estimated $129 billion in overcharges and lost economic opportunities wrought between 2005 and 2009 by telecommunications companies.
Among the measures included in the reform, Mexico would:
_ Allow foreign companies to increase from 49 percent to 100 percent their stake in most telecommunications operations in the country.
_ Give foreign companies the right to own as much as 49 percent of firms transmitting on radio waves in the nation; they currently are prohibited from owning any portion of such a company.
_ Require satellite and cable TV companies to retransmit broadcast television signals, unlike now when they can try to strangle competitors by keeping them off the air.
_ Set up a new regulatory body, the Federal Telecommunications Institute, which would have authority to break up telephone and TV companies with more than 50 percent of the domestic market. The new body also would be allowed to revoke broadcast licenses at will and write new regulations that would favor smaller companies over larger ones.
“With clear and open rules, with authorities who limit concentration, with very established obligations in quality, cost and continuity of service, the telecommunications area will better fulfill its role of invigorating the economy,” Ruiz Esparza said.
Jesus Zambrano, president of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution, said the proposed new watchdog agency would have authority to ensure fair and unbiased use of the air waves, thus potentially keeping media giants from meddling in politics.
“No longer will we have on television, on the radio and on the Internet deceitful, lying, crooked publicity. There won’t be electoral propaganda disguised as information,” Zambrano said.
Other political leaders said that enshrining the new reforms in the country’s constitution would prevent companies from endless lawsuits to gain an upper hand.
“It is worth remembering that the Constitution brooks no lawsuit, trial or appeal. When the Constitution speaks, so speak the sovereign Mexican people,” said Luis Alberto Villarreal, chief of the center-right National Action Party bloc in the Senate.