MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Peña Nieto on Monday proposed an overhaul of the weak and chaotic regulations that have allowed the world’s richest person and the largest Spanish-language media empire to exert near-total control of Mexico’s lucrative telephone and television markets.
The reforms, if approved, would give Mexico the tools to take on two of the most influential people in Mexico, multibillionaire telephone tycoon Carlos Slim and Televisa CEO Emilio Azcarraga, independent observers said. The two rivals’ holds on their respective markets have become widely seen as emblems of regulatory dysfunction in a country aspiring to join the ranks of the world’s economic superpowers.
It was not clear, however, if the government would actually use any new powers against companies whose pervasive influence has repelled years of efforts to break their control.
The reform “envisages specific measures to accelerate competition in telecommunications and broadcasting,” Pena Nieto said before the proposal was signed by the leaders of the country’s major parties. “The purpose of these measures is to free the potential of the sector, and do it in the fastest time possible.”
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The reforms would create two new national television channels and form an independent regulatory commission along the lines of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission with the power to unilaterally punish noncompetitive practices, including withdrawing corporations’ licenses.
The existing commission has no ability to alter permits or issues fines, powers that sit with a Cabinet secretary, a position that in the past frequently has been accused of bowing to telecommunications firms.
The reforms would require TV networks to provide their programming free to most cable operators, and require cable operators to carry all broadcast channels, measures seen as essential for opening television markets to competition. The changes would also block telecommunications and broadcasting companies from freezing regulatory decisions indefinitely simply by obtaining a private injunction, a particularity of Mexican law that has thwarted dozens of attempts to regulate media and communications firms.
The changes to the constitution and federal telecommunications laws must now be approved by congress and half of Mexico’s 32 state legislatures.