Media legislation

Mexico’s print media legislation is old. Newspapers and magazines are regulated by the Ley de imprenta (Press Act or Publishing Act), which was elaborated in 1917 in the context of the Mexican Revolution. This Act regulates issues regarding the ownership of physical infrastructures to print newspapers and some elements about public opinion and free speech. Since that time, this Act has been barely modified. This law is obsolete and, as readers can imagine, nobody uses or refers to this law when talking about newspapers’ and print media in general. Thus, print media in Mexico are regulated by the general laws of the country.

The legal base that sustained the monopolistic and duopolistic nature of the Mexican television industry was the Ley Federal de Radio y Televisión (Radio and Television Federal Act), which ruled the industry during the second part of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. This regulation concentrated the regulatory power of the industry in the figure of the President. Mexican presidents were able to decide who could or could not own television channels and radio stations and, as a consequence, to control what could or could not be broadcasted through these media systems. Thus, throughout most of the 20th century, television and radio systems were appendixes of Mexican governments.

However, this order of things, at least in a legal dimension, changed in 2014 when legislators approved amendments to the Constitution and created a brand-new act to regulate broadcasting and telecom operators. Mexican lawmakers amended the articles six and seven of the Constitution. These amendments included granting the right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression, as well as the right to receive and produce information. Moreover, the Constitution grants that all Mexicans should have universal access to broadcast and telecom services. Up to now, the universal access to telecom services is far from being satisfied.

Moreover, in 2014, legislators repealed the Radio and Television Federal Act and replaced it with the Ley Federal de Radiodifusión y Telecomunicaciones (Broadcasting and Telecommunications Federal Act). The new regulation brought new rules that meant to change the media landscape in four main elements—among other things: First, the new act cancelled the Presidential power of deciding who could own broadcasting and telecommunication systems and created the Instituto Federal de Telecommunications (Federal Telecommunications Institute), which is now in charge of regulating these industries; second, it limited economic concentration specifying that companies and holdings cannot own more than 50 percent of the market share; third, it allowed foreign investors to participate in the broadcasting and telecommunications markets; fourth, it modified the taxonomy of media ownership by recognising commercial, public, and social types of media ownership. It is too soon to evaluate the long-term impact of these reforms. However, it is clear that the broadcasting and telecommunications industries have barely changed since 2014. As of 2018 there are no laws that regulate online content in Mexico and the new administration that came into office in December 2018 has not offered any information or signal of change.