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In brief: media law and regulation in Mexico

Media

Regulatory and institutional structure

Summarise the regulatory framework for the media sector in your jurisdiction.

The key regulatory framework for the media sector in Mexico is comprised of the following statutes:

  • the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law;
  • the Law for the Public Broadcasting System of the Mexican State; and
  • the Law on General Communications.

 

According to the said regulatory framework, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (FTI) is vested with the authority to regulate, promote and oversee the use, enjoyment and exploitation of the radio spectrum, orbital resources, satellite services, public telecommunications networks, and broadcasting and telecommunications provisions.

The FTI is empowered to grant, revoke, renew or modify licences and authorisations in broadcasting and telecommunications sectors, as well as to authorise assignments or changes of control of licensed and authorised individuals or business entities. The FTI also has the authority to regulate matters related to antitrust and fair trading in such sectors.

Ownership restrictions

Do any foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services? Is the ownership or control of broadcasters otherwise restricted? Are there any regulations in relation to the cross-ownership of media companies, including radio, television and newspapers?

According to the Foreign Investment Law, direct foreign investment is allowed up to 49 per cent for both broadcasting services, subject to a standard of reciprocity, and printing and publishing newspapers for distribution in Mexican territory.

There is no specific regulation regarding cross-ownership of newspaper companies and telecommunications and broadcasting companies. However, the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law sets limits regarding broadcasting and telecommunications licensees that prevent or restrict access to plural information in the same market or the same geographic coverage zone.

For that purpose, the FTI shall order pay TV licensees to include in their service those channels that carry news or information programmes of public interest, to guarantee access to plural information promptly. Also, pay TV licensees shall include at least three channels, in which the content is predominantly produced by national independent programme-makers, whose funding is mostly Mexican in origin.

Licensing requirements

What are the licensing requirements for broadcasting, including the fees payable and the timescale for the necessary authorisations?

Under the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law, the FTI is empowered to grant the sole licence. The sole licence grants the right to provide, in a convergent manner, all kinds of public telecommunications and broadcasting services. The licensee requiring the use of frequency bands of the radio spectrum for broadcasting purposes shall obtain the appropriate licence separately.

The sole licence shall be granted for commercial, public, private or social use for a term of up to 30 years and may be extended for up to equal terms. The interested party in obtaining a sole licence shall submit a request containing, at least, the following information:

  • the name and address of the applicant;
  • the general characteristics of the project; and
  • documents and information attesting to their technical, legal and administrative conditions.

 

Obtaining the sole licence from the FTI shall take a minimum of 60 calendar days upon submitting the application; however, the FTI may request additional information where necessary. Once the agency has concluded the analysis and assessment of the documents submitted for this application within such period, and all requirements have been met, the sole licence shall be granted.

The services provided by the licensees shall not grant the privilege or distinction to create any kind of discrimination, and in the case of individuals, all discrimination motivated by ethnic or national origin, gender, age, disability, social background, health condition, religion, sexual orientation, marital status or anything else that undermines human dignity or to nullify or impair the rights and freedoms of individuals shall be prohibited.

The spectrum licence for broadcasting purposes shall be granted for a term of up to 20 years and may be extended for up to equal terms. This licence for commercial and, in some cases, private use, shall be granted only through public auctions with prior payment of the corresponding fee.

When requesting a spectrum licence to provide broadcasting services that involve the participation of foreign investment, a prior and favourable opinion shall be required from the Foreign Investment Commission, and this agency shall verify the limits of the foreign investment outlined in the Mexican Constitution and the Foreign Investment Law.

When granting a broadcasting licence, the FTI may consider the following factors, among others:

  • the economic proposal;
  • coverage, quality and innovation;
  • the prevention of market concentration that conflicts with the public interest;
  • the possible entry of new competition into the market; and
  • consistency with the licence programme.

Foreign programmes and local content requirements

Are there any regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes? Do the rules require a minimum amount of local content? What types of media fall outside this regime?

There is no specific regulation that restricts or limits the amount of local or foreign content broadcasted. However, the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law outlines certain rules and incentives regarding content requirements that shall be followed by licensees.

Broadcasted programmes shall promote, among other things:

  • family integration;
  • sound child development;
  • artistic, historical and cultural principles; and
  • equality between men and women.

 

To promote free and harmonious child and adolescent development, broadcasting aimed at this sector shall, among other criteria:

  • broadcast programmes and information to support cultural, ethical and social principles;
  • avoid content that stimulates or justifies violence; and
  • foster interest in knowledge, particularly concerning scientific, artistic and social matters.

 

Broadcasting licensees shall use the Spanish language in their transmissions. If transmissions are in a foreign language, subtitles or translation into Spanish shall be used. The use of foreign languages without subtitles and translation into Spanish may be authorised by the Ministry of Interior.

Pay TV and audio licensees shall retransmit broadcasting signals of federal institutions free of charge, and shall reserve channels for the transmission of television signals from federal institutions, as indicated by the executive branch, under the following:

  • one channel, when the service contains between 31 and 37 channels;
  • two channels, when the service contains between 38 and 45 channels; and
  • three channels, when the service contains between 46 and 64 channels.

 

If there are more than 64 channels, the reserve shall increase by one channel for every 32 channels.

When the service contains up to 30 channels, the Ministry of Communications and Transportation may require that a specific channel devote up to six hours daily to transmit programmes indicated by the Ministry of the Interior.

The incentives for licensees regarding local content programmes are that those covering at least 20 per cent of their programmes with national production may increase advertising time up to two percentage points, and those covering at least 20 per cent of their programmes with national independent production may increase advertising time up to five percentage points.

Advertising

How is broadcast media advertising regulated? Is online advertising subject to the same regulation?

The Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law outlines that broadcasting, pay TV, programme-makers and signal operator licensees shall maintain a prudent balance between advertising and programmes transmitted daily.

Broadcasting licensees shall apply, among others, the following rules:

  • that in television stations, commercial advertising time shall not exceed 18 per cent of the total transmission time per channel; and
  • in radio stations, commercial advertising time shall not exceed 40 per cent of the total transmission time per channel.

 

Pay TV licensees shall transmit, daily and per channel, up to six minutes of publicity in every hour of transmission. For this purpose, publicity contained in retransmitted broadcast signals and own channel advertising shall not be deemed as publicity.

Must-carry obligations

Are there regulations specifying a basic package of programmes that must be carried by operators’ broadcasting distribution networks? Is there a mechanism for financing the costs of such obligations?

Broadcast television service licensees shall enable pay TV service licensees to retransmit their signal, free of charge and in a non-discriminatory manner, within the same geographic coverage zone, in full, simultaneously and without any changes, including advertising, and with the same quality of the broadcast signal.

Pay TV service licensees shall also retransmit the broadcast television signal, free of charge and in a non-discriminatory manner, within the same geographic coverage zone, in full, simultaneously and without changes, including advertising and with the same quality of the broadcasted signal, and shall include such retransmission in their services, with no additional cost.

Satellite pay TV service licensees shall only retransmit broadcast signals with coverage of 50 per cent or more of the Mexican territory. All pay TV licensees shall retransmit broadcast signals by federal institutions.

Public telecommunications networks or broadcasting television licensees, declared by the FTI as agents with substantial power in either market or as a preponderant economic agent, shall not be entitled to the gratuitous rule of retransmitting signals and under no circumstance shall this be reflected as an additional cost of the services provided to users.

Regulation of new media content

Is new media content and its delivery regulated differently from traditional broadcast media? How?

There is a bill currently in discussion in the Mexican Congress, to amend several provisions of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law, so that over-the-top platforms (namely, those platforms that provide video and streaming services to end users) are obliged to include Mexican content in at least 30 per cent of their catalogues, along with several other bills that propose to regulate the content for underage persons and to protect the free speech right for the content creators.

Nowadays there is no specific regulation regarding new media content; however, the right to information, expression and to receive content through public broadcasting services and pay TV services is free, and shall not be subject to any judicial or administrative prosecution or investigation, nor any limitation or prior censorship, and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Mexican Constitution, international treaties and applicable laws.

Digital switchover

When is the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting required or when did it occur? How will radio frequencies freed up by the switchover be reallocated?

The transition to digital broadcasting went into effect on 31 December 2015. Original licensees using the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band freed up by the switchover shall return them to the Mexican government.

At least 90MHz of spectrum freed up by the digital switchover shall be reallocated to Red Compartida, the shared public telecommunications network.

Digital formats

Does regulation restrict how broadcasters can use their spectrum?

The policy for the transition to digital terrestrial television (DTT) outlines the following rules, among others, regarding digital formats:

  • A/53 ATSC is the transmission standard that shall be used by television licensees;
  • television licensees transmitting DTT shall transmit at least one channel with A/53 ATSC; and
  • fixed DTT services shall be transmitted in standard definition quality.

 

On 17 February 2015, the General Guidelines for Multi-Channelling Access were published in the Official Mexican Gazette to regulate the authorisation and operation conditions for multi-channelling access. Such authorisation shall be granted by the FTI.

Broadcasting licensees with access to television multi-channelling shall transmit at least one channel in high-definition quality, under the terms provided for in the policy for the transition to DTT.

Media plurality

Is there any process for assessing or regulating media plurality (or a similar concept) in your jurisdiction? May the authorities require companies to take any steps as a result of such an assessment?

No specific media plurality rules are in place. The Mexican Constitution outlines that the state shall guarantee that telecommunications and broadcasting services are provided, subject to, among other conditions, competition, quality and plurality.

Also, the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law outlines provisions regarding cross-ownership and rights of the audience, in which plurality is contemplated. Such rights include providing the users with the benefits of culture, plurality and authenticity of the information.

On 6 May 2019, the FTI initiated an investigation on Telmex, for incurring relative antitrust practices in the telecommunications sector. This law requires certain conduct from licensees regarding cross-ownership, which shall not refrain or limit access to plural information.

Key trends and expected changes

Provide a summary of key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation in your country.

The Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) was recognised by the International Telecommunications Union as a 5G regulator, meaning that Mexico has improved its regulatory environment rapidly and significantly since the implementation of a new legal and regulatory framework and the creation of an independent and strong regulator, positioning Mexico as one of the 60 countries with an advanced level of digital transformation preparation.

Telecomunicaciones de México, a decentralised public institution, was granted the authority to carry out a national telecommunications inventory and provide regional operators with access to it. Understanding the quantity and quality of telecommunications infrastructure is key to designing public policies, business plans, network expansion plans and connectivity objectives to close the digital breach. In addition, Telecomunicaciones de México will be able to acquire, carry and install the equipment to manage and operate any fibre optic network of any federal public administration agency, state-owned company, federal entity and municipal government.

On 21 March 2018, the shared public telecommunications network Red Compartida started operations with more than 30 per cent coverage in the country. Red Compartida offers coverage in 48 different commercial zones and 111 towns known as pueblos mágicos covering about 78.6 per cent of the population, and with an expected coverage of 95.4 per cent by the end of 2022. In addition, the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation Ministry published the Public Sites Connectivity Programme 2022, a national internet coverage project through the installation of wireless services in highways, public plazas, health centres, hospitals, schools and community areas. The connectivity also includes the ‘Smart Villages, sustainable wellbeing’ initiative, which aims to offer free satellite connectivity to public sites in rural areas.

From 28 February 2022, Telcel, Mexico’s largest telecommunications company, operates in 18 cities across Mexico, the first nationwide commercial 5G network in Mexico and announced that by the end of 2022, its network will cover 120 cities. The above makes Mexico the first country in Latin America to commercially launch a nationwide, mass-market 5G network. In addition, it is estimated that Latin America will reach 301 million subscriptions with 5G, but 4G-LTE technology will still dominate with 495 connections in the region.

The 5G network, in addition to providing faster internet connection speeds, provides power savings, cost reductions and mass connectivity support.

In April 2021, an amendment to the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law ordering the creation of a registry that shall record the biometric data of mobile services’ users, entered into full force and effect; such registry will be managed by the Federal Telecommunications Institute. Pursuant to these amendments, telecommunications carriers such as América Móvil, AT&T and others will be obliged to collect customers’ data and make the corresponding filings with the Federal Telecommunications Institute. In April 2022, the Supreme Court, by unanimous decision, ruled against the proposed amendment, providing that the creation of the biometric data registry did not justify the violation of privacy and human rights.

The covid-19 crisis has promoted the use of connectivity in the execution of different production processes and daily activities. 2021 was a year of recovery for the telecommunications sector, measured in terms of the revenue generation of service providers. The provision of telecommunications services resulted in an aggregate of 526,964 million Mexican pesos, 6.0 per cent more than in 2020. The Competitive Intelligence Unit anticipates sector revenue growth for 2022 in the range of 3.4 to 6.6 per cent in annual terms, with an average scenario of 4.6 per cent.

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