TV Azteca Under Attack for Refusing to Air Mexico's Presidential Debate

TV Azteca Logo - H 2012

TV Azteca Logo - H 2012

The country's first presidential debate will not be televised Sunday on the No. 2 network because of a controversial scheduling conflict with a quarterfinals soccer match.

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican network TV Azteca is catching heat for its plans to air an upcoming quarterfinals soccer match rather than a key presidential debate slated at the same hour. 

Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute programmed this year's first presidential debate for May 6, presenting an unintentional scheduling conflict with a Mexican league futbol match featuring the TV Azteca-owned Monarcas.

TV Azteca chairman Ricardo Salinas Pliego drew the ire of many when he suggested that if people want to watch the debate, they should do so on a rival broadcaster's network.

"If you want to watch the debate, watch it on Televisa," he tweeted. "If not, watch soccer on Azteca. I'll tell you about the ratings the next day."

Critics are slamming Salinas Pliego for putting TV Azteca's economic interests ahead of the democratic process. 

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"There are sporting events every weekend," Federal Electoral Institute president Leonardo Valdes said in a radio interview. "Presidential debates only happen once every six years."

On Wednesday, Anonymous Mexico reportedly hacked and disrupted the online services of Banco Azteca, a bank owned by the Salinas Pliego family. Other protesters are calling for a boycott on all things Salinas, including TV Azteca, Banco Azteca and retail chain Elektra.

The debate will give voters a chance to hear where Mexico's four presidential candidates stand on such important issues as the vicious drug war and economic policy. Enrique Pena Nieto, known for his good looks and telenovela star wife, holds a commanding lead over his rivals, according to local polls. 

In Salinas Pliego's latest Twitter post, he called the controversy "a debate between authoritarian tweeters and citizens free to elect what they want to watch." 

Voters go to the polls July 1.