María Elena Gutiérrez Rentería
Historically, television and radio have been the most influential media for both news and entertainment in Mexico. Now, traditional media are facing competition from digital-born media companies and international tech platforms.
Public television did not develop in the same way as in some Western and Northern European countries, and Grupo Televisa monopolised commercial television during the 20-year period from 1973 to 1993. TV Azteca was the first company that successfully managed to overcome entry barriers and become an alternative source of news and entertainment. Since then, the media industry has broadened thanks to the liberalisation of the telecommunications market and digital technologies.
Currently, América Móvil, Televisa, TV Azteca, Grupo Imagen, Grupo Radio Centro, and Grupo Multimedios are the leading companies in terms of both audience reach and share of the advertising pie. However, the traditional press – which is primarily regional rather than national – is also represented by a small group of Mexican companies, including Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), El Universal, Grupo Milenio, Grupo Reforma, and El Financiero, that publish a variety of different newspapers brands in local markets.
All of these companies are usually associated with traditional media, but also have an active presence online in the form of legacy and digital-born brands. Grupo Televisa, once dominant, has now largely lost its position as the opinion leader, although it is still present. Through Televisa News online and the purchase of SDP News online, it is now trying to regain its position in the digital news market.
International brands, such as CNN and Yahoo News, have a strong foothold in the online Mexican news market. Domestic digital-born news brands have recently emerged in Mexico, and are increasing their audience reach. The most widely used include SDP News (recently acquired by Grupo Televisa in March 2017), UnoTV (América Móvil), Aristegui News, Sin Embargo, Cultura Colectiva, Digital López Dóriga, Political Animal, and La Crónica.1
Aristegui News, named after the leading left-wing journalist Carmen Aristegui, is of particular note as it is the most widely used online news brand in our survey (41%). Much of their output is investigative, and they have been associated with numerous high-profile stories on topics like drug trafficking, corruption, and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, but have also been accused of causing moral damage and misusing freedom of speech. Aristegui herself has become a major public figure in Mexico over the years after her high-profile work for CNN in Spanish, Grupo Reforma, MVS, Grupo Imagen, Imevisión (now TV Azteca), and on university television in charge of National Polytechnic Institute (IPN).
Though we should remember that internet penetration in Mexico is comparatively low (56%), social media (72%) are an important source of news for those that do have access, partly due to low levels of trust in traditional news corporations. Facebook and WhatsApp are particularly popular, not least because access comes bundled with smartphone internet access at no additional cost. This is one of the reasons why, in common with other Latin American countries, the smartphone (70%) is now more widely used for digital news access than the computer (45%).
The most serious problem facing journalists is freedom of expression and the constant threat they face when they cover political corruption and drug trafficking. Murders, kidnappings, and other threats are not unusual. In 2016 11 journalists were killed, making it the most violent year on record. In 2017, the murder of 54-year-old journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea, prompted the owner to close El Norte de Ciudad Juárez after 27 years of operation. This was the first time in Mexico’s history that a newspaper was closed for these reasons.
Fake news is not uncommon in Mexico. Recent stories include the supposed death of Xavier López ‘Chabelo’, director and host of the children’s programme En domingo con Chabelo, selfies of Pope Francis, and the death of Carmen Aristegui. Fake news is typically disseminated on social media, but there are sites, such as ElDeforma, that are devoted to it.
Low trust in news is linked to a perceived lack of credibility in societal institutions as a whole. For decades, the media were characterised by a close relationship with the government and political parties. But beginning in the 1990s, some newspaper companies managed to build their prestige on greater transparency in their editorial line, and journalism unrelated to economic and political interests.
- D. Bermudez, Ranking de medios nativos digitales. El Economista (2017). Retrieved from http://eleconomista.com.mx/especiales/comscore/2017/03/03/ranking-medios-nativos-digitales ↩