In the North American country, 10 % of the frequencies are reserved for community and indigenous radio stations, said Sóstenes Díaz, commissioner of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (FTI), on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Mexican radio. There are 109 community radio stations and 20 indigenous radio stations protected by the Federal Law on Telecommunications and Broadcasting (LFTyR), which since 2014 has defined a regulatory framework to give certainty to social organizations. The law recognizes the importance of radio in the cultural and social development of communities. The legislation authorizes the granting of licenses to all entities interested in offering these services (Article 87), so much so that the airwaves regulator will hold seminars for entities interested in opening new ones.
The proliferation of pirate radio stations is worrying the authorities and broadcasters, who are members of the Cirt (National Chamber of the Radio and Television Industry). Many of them are run by organised criminal groups, who use them to communicate with each other, or by religious sects, pressure organisations or to generate mobilisation. “It is estimated that there are at least 500,” said Carlos Ponce, director of the section in charge of verification at the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT). Sixty were seized in 2021, bringing to 350 (out of 657 checks carried out) the number of deactivations carried out in the last seven years (since the start of inspection activity). Sixty percent of illegal radio stations are concentrated in the ‘corridor’ that ideally runs from Guadalajara and Bajio to Oaxaca; the other 40 per cent in the north of the country.
Damage to the economy and to licensed radio stations
Illegal pirate radio stations take resources away from the community because they do not pay royalties to the state, they do not pay taxes, they do not create jobs, they do not invest in production. They use frequencies without having participated in public tenders, like the concessionaires, and they take away advertising from the licensed radio stations. They often use non-standard equipment that produces interference and can jeopardise services such as air navigation by jamming communications between the control tower and aircraft. Countering these stations is not easy, says Alejandro Navarrete, head of the IFT’s Radio Spectrum Unit, because they hide their antennas in imaginative and unpredictable ways: they can be in trees or on the empty pipes of a water tank. Moreover, it is not easy to deactivate them: the operators of illegal stations and even whole communities often object and inspectors have to be escorted by the authorities, whether federal, state or municipal security forces.
The Central American country is one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists: an estimated 200 have been murdered in the last 30 years, not counting hundreds of attacks and intimidation. To defend them, and to prevent attacks on them and the media from going unpunished, thirteen Mexican media groups have formed an alliance. Its members are: El Universal, Proceso, Cámara Nacional de la Industria de la Radiodifusión (CIRT), Eje Central, El Heraldo, Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), La Silla Rota, Publimetro, El Dictamen, Politico Mx, Vanguardia Mx, El Economista y Debate. The association (Alianza de Medios Mx) not only defends, promotes and protects the rights of freedom of expression, but also offers support to file complaints on freedom of expression and requests assistance in case of attacks.