Unlike other media, television has not yet lost the leadership in being one of the most influential channels to shape Guatemalans’ opinions. Access to television in the country is possible in two ways: open signal and cable. The first is dominated by businessman Ángel González, owner of the open television frequencies of channels 3, 7, 13 and 11. This transmission format allows Angel González to reach 83 percent of households in the country. González has no real competition in the open signal. The other open signals belong to the Congress of the Republic and Television Maya, which focus their production on topics related to citizen participation, education, or appreciation of autochthonous cultures, however their production is scarce or nonexistent. This monopoly allows González’s channels to reach groups with fewer resources in rural areas. The rating survey conducted by Multivex Sigma Dos shows that the most watched shows on a national level are those produced by generalist TVs targeting a popular audience. In 2015 the most watched show was Combate, a show in which two groups of male and female models compete in different challenges. The ranking also includes the news program for channel 3 (in favor of the government), the Rosa de Guadalupe (Mexican novel) and national soccer.
The fact that González has maintained this monopoly for more than six decades is no coincidence. The businessman’s modus operandi on Guatemalan politics can be summarised in the criminal accusation presented by the District Attorney’s Office and the CICIG in 2016. Checks and documents that were seised revealed how between 2008 and 2011 his companies contributed Q17.5m (US$2.3m approximately) to the finances of the Partido Patriota (Patriot Party - PP) that led Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti to the presidency. The editorial line of the Albavisión group has always been in favor of the government of the day.
On the other hand, cable television has gained more strength. This service is paid-for and can be contracted in any municipality from US$7 a month; its programming includes channels aimed at a medium-low and low socioeconomic stratum; unlike the medium-high and high levels that prefer to consume entertainment via Internet and streaming platforms.
By 2014, a government study established that cable television reaches 80 percent of households in urban areas and 50 percent in rural areas. That same study established that there were 482 cable companies registered and 49 without licence. Until the last decade, these cable operators were small local companies that provided services to their nearby areas. However, in the last years the company Tigo (the largest telephone company in Guatemala allied with Millicom in Sweden) began an expansion of their business and bought the majority of local cable companies. This lowered the influence of cable owners, who usually introduced the patter of advertising paid by local businesses and politicians. It also ended the broadcast of local news programmes produced by these small companies. So far TIGO has specialised in programming related to sports and has not covered political content. The few cable companies they have not bought are already solid enough companies with a loyal territory, or belong to politicians who need to maintain that influence on the local advertising pattern. Although TIGO is a potential threat to the monopoly of Ángel González, TIGO broadcasts González’ channels, so his influence is not really cut off.
Alongside these expansion models, there are two Guatemalan television stations that, contrary to the previous cases, are going through severe crises that threaten to bankrupt them. These are the television stations Guatevisión (owned by print media Prensa Libre) and Canal Antigua, both distributing content via cable for a public mainly based in urban areas, with access to high level education, focused on politics, corruption, public personalities and the economy. In 2018, Guatevisión had a sharp staff cut and reduced offices due to the low income it reported. Canal Antigua (owned by the same corporation as Radio Emisoras Unidas) had a boom during the PP government (2012-2015).
During those years one of its shareholders, Erick Archila, served as Minister of Energy. After the PP government was singled out for acts of corruption, Canal Antigua lost credibility and its revenues were also reduced.
There are other television stations of less importance, such as Canal27 of religious Pentecostal type, TV Azteca (subsidiary of the Mexican television) and Vea Canal (pro government) among others. Television programmes that do not belong to large corporations are practically null, and those that exist are limited to the broadcast of local cable news.