Mexico's Televisa to make political advertising information public

Mexico's leading broadcaster Grupo Televisa SA will announce an agreement Monday with the country's election watchdog to make public its political advertising contracts for the 2006 elections.

According to a Televisa official who requested anonymity, the broadcasting company initiated the effort to both safeguard a perception of impartiality, and to improve the transparency of the election process.

The authority that oversees Mexico's electoral processes is the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE. The Televisa official denied that the move is related to a controversy surrounding the network and ruling-party presidential hopeful Santiago Creel, the former Interior Minister who granted permits for electronic betting to a firm linked to Televisa shortly before leaving office to announce his bid for the party's candidacy.

A firestorm erupted in June over the concessions, with members of Congress threatening investigations to determine whether the potential candidate of the National Action Party, or PAN, had made the approvals to garner favorable coverage from the country's dominant broadcaster.

The Televisa official said it contacted IFE about a month and a half ago with its proposal to improve transparency, but he said it was part of the company's overall strategy to contribute to an open electoral process.

The agreement with IFE will give the electoral authority access to the company's advertising billing system so that it can check where the money is coming from, as well as to the actual contracts, the official said. Televisa also plans to post the contracts on its Web site, AP reports.

The accord will only apply to contracts made with the political parties once the formal election cycle starts in January, covering federal candidates for the presidency and two houses of Congress. Pre-campaign advertising isn't regulated by IFE.

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