Mexico court requires public free-to-air process

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MEXICO CITY -- In a decision that could allow new players to enter Mexico's highly concentrated broadcast TV market, the Supreme Court here has ruled that a public bidding process must take place to renew free-to-air concessions.

In recent weeks, Mexico's high court has been reviewing the constitutionality of a controversial media law passed in Congress last year.

A group of dissenting legislators appealed the law, claiming it contains provisions that give unfair advantages to the nation's powerful television duopoly. Networks Televisa and TV Azteca control about 95% of Mexico's broadcast TV stations and pull in a dominant share of the market's ad revenue.

The Supreme Court decision on Thursday requires a public bidding process to renew broadcast concessions, meaning that existing networks would have to compete for spectrum as the television industry here undergoes digital transformation.

Televisa and TV Azteca have defended the polemical legislation, saying that any changes to the law would slow down modernization. Yet opponents insist the measures serve to block prospective new players -- like NBC Universal's Telemundo -- from entering the market.

Dubbed the "Televisa Law," the legislation was passed before last year's presidential election. Opponents have accused the two broadcasters of backroom dealing, and some lawmakers have claimed the networks pressured them to approve the law in the heat of an election year. Both networks have denied the accusations.
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