Mexican Senate approves new TV law

Mexico's Senate approved a new radio and television law Thursday that critics say will benefit the handful of big broadcasters that already dominate Mexican media.

Following hours of heated debate, the Senate voted 81-40, with four abstentions, to approve the general outlines of the bill, which sparked days of protest by writers, intellectuals and public radio and TV stations.

The Senate may still change the language in some clauses of the bill before it is sent to President Vicente Fox for his approval

The bill voted on in the Senate establishes new rules for digital transmissions, but some say it favors existing frequency holders by allowing them to use their existing spectrums for any kind of broadcast.

Opponents say the switch to digital from analog services should be used to encourage competition in the market, which is dominated by Grupo Televisa SA and No. 2 broadcaster TV Azteca SA.

"The model laid out in the bill clearly tends toward concentration" of media outlets, said Sen. Dulce Maria Sauri, of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, during the debate. "It encourages concentration and acquisitions."

Local media quoted Sen. Fauzi Hamdan of the ruling National Action Party as dismissing the criticism. "The angry and vocal attack against the broadcasters is, paradoxically, based on the argument of letting things stay as they are," he said.

Supporters of the bill pointed to provisions that would make more transparent the process of granting media concessions, which were previously given out largely at will by the government, reports the AP.


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