Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mexico's communications monopolies

Amigos no longer

Billionaires feud over converging television and telecoms markets

 What’s on television tonight? Nada, as usual

MEXICO’S telephone and television industries are near-monopolies. About 80% of landlines are connected to Telmex, one of many companies controlled by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. Another of Mr Slim’s firms, Telcel, has 70% of the mobile-phone market. A second-division billionaire, Emilio Azcárraga, maintains almost as tight a grip on the television business, in which his company, Televisa, claims 70% of the country’s free-to-air TV audience. Most other viewers are mopped up by TV Azteca, run by Ricardo Salinas, the country’s fourth-richest tycoon.

The Mexican billionaires’ club has long been cosy. Apart from some sporting rivalry between the two broadcasters, there has been little reason for members to intrude on each other’s captive markets. Until now. On March 9th a group of 25 companies led by Televisa and TV Azteca filed a complaint with the competition authorities against Mr Slim’s telephone empire. Full-page newspaper ads denounced the industry’s “expensive and bad monopoly”.

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