Community radio conflicts
20 Apr 11

Community radio station have grown more popular in Mexico in the last few years creating conflicts with private radio networks. It is expected new laws which will either expand or retract the operating room for these low wattage radio stations will be included in an upcoming revision of television and radio legislation in Mexico. In the last few months, private radio station owners have lobbied the Mexican Congress about the increasing popularity of the community radio stations.

In early April, the Chamber of Deputies organised a forum on the challenges posed by the community radio movement, which was attended by both friends and foes of the community radios. During one of the panels at the event, representatives of Mexico’s Radio and Television Chamber (CIRT), which represents major radio station owners, asked the Mexican government to ensure there was no uneven competition between private radio stations and community radios. Emilio Nassar of the CIRT said that after subsidies, the community radios could be better situated economically than the private for profit stations.

Nassar insisted that “the independence with which the industry works today in Mexico, allows plurality, content diversity and editorial autonomy. Everything can be said on radio”.  So why are the community radios necessary, he asked rhetorically.

Back in December 2009, radio station owners used a full page newspaper advertisement to argue that  permitting the operation of community radios could produce a Chavez-style government in Mexico. A claim rejected by AMARC-Mexico, an NGO that promotes community radio. Community radio stations have been targeted by politicians in the regions too. In January, the government of Veracruz detained a radio director for operating his Radio Diversidad without a  license. A detention that prompted the Human Rights Commission for Mexico City to express concern about the “criminalisation of community radios”. A fear echoed by many working in community radio as politicians debate their future.