TV Azteca accepted money from a coalition of political organizations to run ads back in March, and that is a no-no – in Mexico. The television network was testing new ads calling for provision of free political airtime, and it found out that the government plans to enforce the rule, to the tune of 500K. According to Variety, the ads concerned a demonstration being planned by a defeated presidential candidate who wanted to focus attention on energy policy concerns. At least 15 airings occurred in March.
The government action is in no way an attempt to squelch media access to a politician on the outs. In fact, Azteca is supposed to rebroadcast the ads for free, despite the fact that the rally being advertised is already a piece of history. Azteca plans to appeal on free speech grounds. Variety notes that 130M was spent on political during the 2006 Mexican presidential campaign.
The rules apply to both television and radio.
RBR/TVBR observation: Free political airtime in the US is constantly proposed in Washington, and so far, it has been just as constantly beaten back. But it is clearly an irresistible target for politicians.
The obvious problem for broadcasters is that they are licensed as commercial advertisers. Selling airtime is how broadcasters are able to provide programming to US citizens for free, and if politicians are taking some of it away, they are depleting inventory. It’s exactly the same as going into the nearest donut shop and saying “Hey, we’re running a campaign here – we want donuts and coffee for free.”
We’ll just add that political advertisements are usually the least informative and dirtiest parts of a typical campaign, and not worthy of subsidizing. But that’s just our opinion.