Mexico daily El Universal: 'truth is not for sale.' Mexico daily El Universal: 'truth is not for sale.'

Media must be on side to get government ads

New York Times report says news coverage is controlled through ad spending

The federal government has spent almost US $2 billion on media advertising in the past five years but according to a report in the New York Times, the money has bought much more than just promotional ads and television commercials.

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Favorable coverage and editorial influence are also part of the deals made between the government and several media outlets, with some government press secretaries explicitly demanding positive coverage before lucrative contracts are signed, the report says.

The Enrique Peña Nieto-led Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) government’s lavish spending is made with a simple proviso, the Times reported: “I do not pay you to criticize me.”

Consequently, if a newspaper, radio station or television broadcaster wants to continue to receive precious advertising revenue from the government, falling into line with its demands is non-negotiable.

A very advertising budget and media organizations that depend on the revenue means that to a large extent the government has come to control the news through its spending, the Times asserted.

That control — labelled “a presidential branding juggernaut” — is “capable of suppressing investigative articles, directing front pages and intimidating newsrooms that challenge it,” the Times said.

Last year, the government spent more than twice its generous media budget, the transparency group Fundar found, while the Supreme Court ruled in November that the government must act on a presidential promise to regulate the allocation of advertising expenditure without bias.

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Added to the federal money are millions of dollars that state governments also spend with their preferred media outlets to achieve the same dual end: promoting themselves and their policies through paid advertising and receiving positive editorial coverage in return.

And so a vicious cycle is created.

Federal and state officials tell editors what they should and should not publish, hard-hitting stories are often softened or abandoned altogether and a reported two-thirds of journalists censor themselves due to pressure from advertisers and editors because of the impact that critical or dissenting voices would have on a news outlet’s finances.

“If a professional reporter wants to cover the dirty elements of what is happening in the country today, neither the government nor private companies will give them a penny,” historian Enrique Krauze told the Times.

“This is one of the biggest flaws in Mexican democracy,” added Krauze, the editor of the magazine Letras Libres that also receives some government money.

But it is a flaw that has been around for a long time, starting in the early days of the seven-decade rule of the PRI, and one that is now deeply engrained in the political system.

From 2000 to 2012, when the opposition National Action Party (PAN) was in power, the practice continued.

More recently, former Chihuahua governor César Duarte — currently on the run in the United States — spent more than US $50 million on publicity and buying favorable coverage from media organizations, current state officials said.

Bribery in the state extended to journalists at a local level while new websites were created for the very purpose of attracting advertising revenue and supporting the governor’s agenda.

“The relation between the media and power is one of the gravest problems in Mexico,” Duarte’s successor, Javier Corral, told the Times.

“. . . It’s carrot and stick: ‘Behave well, and I’ll give you lots of money and advertising. Act badly and I’ll get rid of it,’” he added.

The federal government’s excessive spending on advertising has also been criticized because it has come at the same time as budget cuts in essential services such as health and education.

The director of the magazine Etcétera conceded that the situation is problematic but argued that if the government advertising revenue dried up, the consequences would be even worse.

“Of course, the use of public money limits freedom of expression, but without this public money there would be no media in Mexico at all,” Marco Levario said. “We are all complicit in this,” he added.

However, in a prepared statement the president’s office rejected that its spending affected free speech in any way, arguing that the purpose of its advertising is to inform and educate the public about its work and that it is backed legally by the constitution.

“There is a permanent criticism from Mexican journalists toward the government. Just by opening any newspaper, turning on the television and going to social media, you can verify this,” its statement read.

Among the newspapers the Times said have received considerable amounts of federal or state money in recent years are Excélsior, Milenio, Reforma, La Jornada and El Universal. Some media companies are part of larger conglomerates that also win government infrastructure contracts, further muddying the waters.

Last year, El Universal received about US $10 million in government advertising Fundar found, more than any other newspaper in the country.

But many of the newspapers the New York Times mentioned, including El Universal, also rejected the claims that the government unduly influences what they do and do not publish.

“The editorial line of El Universal is not for sale, it has no price and nobody can buy it,” the newspaper responded today in an editorial.

Source: The New York Times (en), El Universal (sp)

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  • gypsyken

    There was a time when the government of Mexico controlled newsprint and allocated it according to how newspapers “reported” on it. When is the U.S. government going to catch up? Just calling the N.Y. Times and Washington Post “fake news” isn’t getting rid of them.

  • Güerito

    This is obvious to anyone living in Mexico, fluent in Spanish, and interested in current events or politics.

    El Universal, which MND uses quite a lot, is especially egregious.

  • From South of the Border

    Unlike here in the U.S. there is a First amendment and this has kept the PRESS in the U.S. more or less free! There are problems, but compared to Mexico they are like a walk in the park, on a sunny day! As I have said here for quite a long time, Mexico will be what it is corrupt and under educated until the Mexican people put their foot down and insist on a house cleaning here in Mexico! From what I’ve seen the Mexican people seem to enjoy the refrain ” ONLY IN MEXICO ” when crazy things go on with the government. It is a bad joke at this point! This country could be a first world nation in a matter of a generation 20 to 25 years, if the government cleaned up its act and the citizens stopped making excuses for all the corruption here! If you don’t like the U.S. alright in Canada this kind of shenanigans would never, be tolerated either. I don’t care if it is the PRI, PAN, PRD or MORENA all of these parties and politicians here in Mexico are dirty, corrupt scumbags! Most, if not all of them would be serving time in Federal prison back in Canada or the U.S.
    As I said, before only when people are willing to put their lives on the line, meaning that they are ready to die for freedom and to stop the corruption and to take, back control of their country “Mexico” once and for all then and only then will the corruption and and then Mexico can take its rightful place among the nations in the first world. The problem is I don’t think the Mexican people as a whole have the stomach for such a movement, so they will accept the few scraps the government and the oligarchs throw them without as much as a whimper in protest the word “COWARDS” comes to mind.
    In the Canada and the U.S. working men and women have died in protests and strikes to get the kinds of benefits and rights people have today. People were killed by private guards trying to break up strikes and protests. The steel Homestead strike Pittsburgh! The attempts to break up the 1930’s car strikes in Detriot. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s people were clubbed by police in Birmingham and Selma and so many other places. Even in a democratic republic like the U.S. and Canada sometimes you have to go to the streets to get your rights. Why do people in Canada and the U.S. have unemployment insurance, Social Security Old Age Pensions and Disability pensions. Not to mention food stamps and many other social programs, because people fought for them in the streets and in the halls of power. Some people had to die for these things to happen. A modern minimum wage PER HOUR $10.00 an hour! Other such laws they don’t just show up like magic you have to fight for them hopefully peacefully, but, if necessary sometimes with violence. Like I said, before, until the Mexican people wake up and demand these types of changes and the end of the corruption the Mexican people deserve what is happening to them. I wish someone would speak up, but as I said, before the word ” COWARDS ” comes to mind!!

    • Jeff Swanson

      Excellent and very well said. Sick of the lazy Mexicans and “What can we do?” or the fav of the Mexican people,
      “He who has the gun’s and the gold makes the rules”
      When I lived in Mexico, the local Mayor elect started paying the three largest local newspapers 50,000 pesos a month EACH, of course from the taxpayer coffers, when called on it, he blamed the internet saying, “because of the internet, news paper sales and readership is down, paper sales are down, without this money we would have no local newspapers”
      Wanna know what I think? He was “Buying” their silence, IN FACT I AM ACUSING HIM OF IT!
      Wanna know what else? A very small “Independent” newspaper was hammering him and the Mexican Federal Government on an illegal issue, then suddenly they stopped, picked up a copy of the paper as I was “following” the story, and EVERY 3rd page had a full page ad bought by the city OR the fed’s, reporting STOPPED!
      How many of you “Rokit Scyentests” can see they were “bought Off” via ad sales? Raise your hands!
      Amazing place that Mexico, where is Hailey and the liberal front on this issue? Try this in the USA or Canada where the privilege is abused by the aforementioned folks, they would be screaming in the streets, PUT UP OR SHUT UP!

      • From South of the Border

        Great Jeff thanks for the support! I have just about had it with the complaining by Mexicans about their government! When they get a pair and put something that means something on the line then I’ll respect them until then its just a lot of hot air! Again Thanks!

        • Happy Girl

          How many readers are willing to give their life and the lives of their family members to stand up to corruption? It has nothing to do with growing a pair. Having read Mexico Daily News for several years I am humbled by those who have been murdered for trying to do the right thing…these brave souls are soon forgotten and quickly replaced. I (a Canadian) watch with shock as the president of the USA tries to strong arm/shut down/quash the free press and anyone who disapproves of him…including the judicial system, FBI and the government…no one seems capable of standing up for him…or grow a pair! So, if you want to see your future look to Mexico. Stop and think…start worrying about the USA… it is slipping down that same slippery slope of corruption.

          • From South of the Border

            Happy Girl, If you think the tweets that Trump uses to go around the news media or his black listing of journalists at the White House are a prelude to setting up a situation similar to what is happening here in Mexico, you have no idea of how deep the first amendment goes into the history of the U.S. Trump will get his message out, but the press will also, get their message out then it is up to the American people to decide, who is right or wrong its a competition that has gone on between the press and all presidents! The press protections in the U.S. are so deeply rooted that no president could get away with what they do here in Mexico! The courts and the public at large wouldn’t allow it never mind that the politicians still need the press and vice versa. You are getting overly emotional like many of the people on left right now! Trump won’t win a battle against the first amendment so, go get a cup of coffee and relax!!

          • Happy Girl

            Oh, be still my beating heart….thanks for the good news…I think I was going to faint with fright…silly me. I am truly thankful to be Canadian and that the USA is not my country…the USA is just a scary reality/comedy show next door. Press protection doesn’t cover his dismantling of environmental protections in favour of his rich friends (sounds like Mexico), putting unqualified rich individuals into leadership roles (sounds like Mexico), passing a tax bill that benefits the rich and the loss of tax dollars will be covered by the poor (sounds like Mexico). The super rich own your a$$es (they rule the world and always have)…they control your government and your representatives….and the narrative. Sounds like Mexico to me. And don’t forget Fox News which is the equivalent to Mexican news channels. Thanks for the good news…I feel so much better now.

          • Garry Montgomery

            And the press bias and political connections won’t help at all . . .

          • Garry Montgomery

            Well said . . . Only in the U.S.!

          • Jeff Swanson

            OK why is it you always ALL right away “Trump” (no pun) the USA and Trump, THAT smoke screen is getting old. This is a story about MEXICO! The MND is SOLO about Mexico, coming in with Trump, the USA causing all of Mexico’s problems, DON’T work no more.
            Canada has what a part time substitute drama teacher or flute player, as prime minster? That’s the comedies, comedy of errors. As an American I am always shocked how the world all wants to stick their nose in US business, talking average citizens now, few if any know the prime minster of Canada in the USa, much less comment.
            Get a kick otta ya’ll via actual post on TA, “I am traveling to Mexico with my children, worried about Dengue/Zika, is it a problem?” answer by Canadian “What you don’t have mosquitos where you live?” answer post by Canadian #2 “there are way more mosquitos in Canada, then I have ever seen in Mexico” HOW is THAT answering to original TA post question, it ain’t, same BS here! Same old Canadians hiding their money from their high tax government, running a business in Mexico.

        • Jeff Swanson

          I would urge everyone to read the paper “Why does Mexico suck” by Luis Miguel, (Simply Google Why does Mexico suck, Luis Miguel) he pretty much nails it on why Mexico will never rise above the crime, the corruption the everything, promise best read of your life! As he correctly states and I have done till I am blue in the face is ask every Mexican WHAT is wrong with México? the answer IS ALWAYS the same, THE GOVERMENT, since they have been saying this, and we have clearly established this is “their quote one and only problem” why in 100 years has it not been fixed? Read the paper by Luis, the answer was there all the time!

      • Garry Montgomery

        Really?

    • Garry Montgomery

      With the rash of journalist assassinations, best take the money and write what you’re told to. The average, uncorrupt Mexican is aware of the B/S and the government’s failings but unlike 100 years ago, nobody is prepared to risk their lives by doing more than vocally complaining.

      • Rob Mellors

        Precisely!

  • Terri Lane

    Since living in Mexico, I simply assumed that the press was controlled by the government, simply based on the numerous commercials about the government during news programs. When I watch the news, there isn’t any “real” news, just fluff. I hope that in the future, Mexico can have a truly free press. Seems like the “real” journalists (the ones who report true stories, and look deeper into stories) are frequently assassinated. So, like in the US, I watch the news for the weather report. Yes the press is “free” in the US, but have become involved in the stories they are simply supposed to be reporting on. And they are much more “opinion based” in their reporting. All a sad state of affairs.

  • Garry Montgomery

    Well, I guess it’s legal corruption, but it’s always a matter of money talks. The media wants the cash so they compromise their “ideals” and write what they’re told to write then they complain about suppression of the press!

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