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Democratization, media and elections: Electoral reform in Mexico

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  • 1. Democratization, media and elections:
    Electoral reform in Mexico
    Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta
    Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de Me´xico,
    Paseo de la Reforma 880, C.P. 01210 Lomas de Santa Fe,
    México City, México
  • 2.
  • 3. Democratization, media and elections: Electoral reform in Mexico
    Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta
    Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de Me´xico, Paseo de la Reforma 880, C.P. 01210 Lomas de Santa Fe, México City, México
    Abstract
    The two last elections in Mexico – one for president, the other legislative – have taken place in an atmosphere of growing
    competitiveness and high political uncertainty, which has strained relations among the players involved. The electoral governance of increasingly inclusive regulations which facilitated the development of a moderate multiparty democracy seems not to guarantee the legitimacy and quality of the electoral process. The article analyzes the electoral reforms of 2008 with an
    emphasis on the media and the effect of reforms on the behavior of the different players involved: the parties, the dual
    structure of the media, the arbiter, and theaudiences–voters.
    © 2009 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Policy and Society Associates (APSS).
    Media system and democratization. In search of a theoretic model?
    The growing body of literature regarding the third wave of democratization has emphasized the engineering of political institutions; fundamentally those associated with the minimum requisites of a representative electoral democracy (Dahl, 2002). However, as Przeworski recognizes,
    even though it is indeed certain that democracy is a system of positive political rights, ‘‘the system itself
    does not create the social and economical conditions necessary for those rights to be exercised
    effectively’’ (1998, p. 374). This explains the current academic concern over defining a vibrant democracy associated with the development of a stable institutional structure that guarantees the liberty and equality of the citizen by means of the correct and legitimate functioning of its institutions and
    mechanisms (Beetham, 2005; Morlino, 2005; O’Donnell, 2005a, 2005b; Powell, 2005).
    Morlino has proposed five possible dimensions ‘‘in which the best democracies are able to move’’; the rule of law; accountability; reciprocity; full respect of the right to a spectrum of freedoms; and the
    progressive implementation of greater political, social and economical equality (2005, pp. 37–52). Despite the recognition of the fact that the institutions and the mechanisms of representative
    democracies are the principal criteria in the analysis of the democratic quality,1 the emphasis on
    variables such as accountability signals the centrality of citizens’ participation in self criticism and the
    control of participation in public power and political institutions ‘‘from the bottom up’’.2 As
    * TranslatedfromSpanishby Jennifer AnneKozak, M.A. candidate, HispanicStudies, UniversityofWestern Ontario, Canada,
    jkozak3@uwo.ca. E-mail address: carlos.rodriguez@uia.mx.
    1 Levine and Molina (2007) recognize that democratic legitimacy is the foundation upon which the analysis of democratic health operates. To link quality with democratic legitimacy implies centralizing the analysis on established procedures in order
    to choose and control governments, and so that the citizens can influence their decisions (. . .) which necessarily entails two
    additional elements required to give democratic legitimacy: full citizenship (universal suffrage) and effective rights to
    organization and participation (2007, p. 19).
    2 According to Morlino, accountability is implicitly based on two assumptions of the liberal tradition: (a) citizens are given the genuine opportunity to evaluate the government’s responsibility in terms of satisfying their own needs and requirements, and
    they are capable of doing so, since they possess an accurate perception of their own needs; (b) citizens, as individuals or part of
    a group, are the only possible judges of their own needs; no third party can decide their needs (2005, p. 39).
    1449-4035/$ – see front matter © 2009 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Policy and Society Associates (APSS).
    doi:10.1016/j.polsoc.2009.11.006
  • 4. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    66
    Levine and Molina recognize, the analysis of representation should focus on how citizens acquire the abilities that make it possible for them to have access to empowerment and how the ‘quality’ and the ‘authenticity’ of representation is enhanced (2007, p. 22).
    Beginning with a ‘generic’ definition of democracy, understood as ‘‘a regime or system in which the actions of leaders are
    supervised by citizens who act indirectly through competition and cooperation among their representatives’’, Schmitter (2005)
    predicts that the more actively citizens participate in the ‘‘decision to make a decision’’ the more attention they will pay to the
    subsequent process and the greater they will feel an obligation to comply with what is finally decided, even if it is in
    opposition to their own decision. During the decision making process, representatives, who presumably play a key
    role in the collective mobilization, enter into bargaining regulated by pre-established restrictions, with the representatives of other parties, associations and influential movements. Even though they may not be successful, they will be prepared to accept
    the result as fair. Following a similar logic, the more accessibility the leaders provide to a large number of, and a wider variety
    of individual citizens or civil society organizations, the higher the probability will be that the final decisions made will correspond to the interests and desires of the citizens and the representatives. This implies that the more politically
    responsible the leaders are with the citizens, the higher the quality of democracy will be (2005, p. 63).
    As one can appreciate, the quality of democratic life depends directly on the methods through which the citizens achieve greater and more egalitarian levels of information; in other words, the distribution of cognitive resources within the population
    indicates the extent to which the electorate will be able to make politically informed decisions (Dahl, 2002). The more egalitarian and more abundant the distribution of cognitive resources such as education and information, the more probable it is that the political decisions of the citizens will be in accord with their interests and the more probable it will be that citizens will be capable of making decisions in awareness of their potential consequences (Levine & Molina, 2007, p. 25).
    From this perspective, understanding the logic of the media and its dynamic interaction with the political system in a
    specific society constitutes an important contribution to the evaluation of the quality of the democracy (Chalaby, 1998;
    Hallin & Mancini, 2004; Martı´nez i Coma, 2008; Gunther & Mughan, 2000; Price, Rozumilowicz, & Verhulst, 2002).
    The ‘absence of an integrated agenda of investigation’ on the subject, explains the fragmented focus and the limited
    investigation of the effects of political communication during electoral campaigns on an individual (micro) level
    (Gunther & Mughan, 2000). The aforementioned studies combine micro- and macro-perspectives in order to examine
    the different roles of the media and the political system in different types of political regimes (authoritarian,
    transitional democratic and established democratic). Hallin and Mancini (2004) analyze the common evolution of
    communications institutions and political institutions within certain specific historic contexts and propose four
    principal dimensions for the comparison of media systems: the structure of the media market, especially the degree of
    development of large circulation newspapers; the nature and degree of political parallelism; the development of
    journalistic professionalism; and the nature and degree of state intervention in the media system (2004, pp. 19–43).
    Hallinand Mancini attempt to relate these media development norms to the structural characteristics of the political
    system, including the role of the state in society, the degree of consensus in the political system; the organizational
    norms of interest groups (including the distinction between maximally fragmented liberal systems and maximally
    cooperative systems), the distinction between moderate and polarized pluralism, and the development of rational–
    legal authority (as opposed to patronage). The authors reveal a high correlation, even though it should not be
    interpreted as an ‘‘exact mechanical correspondence’’ (2004, p. 271). Their findings suggest three ideal models: the
    Polarized or Mediterranean Pluralist Model; the Cooperative Democratic or the North and Central European Model;
    and the Liberal or the North Atlantic Model.3
    The Polarized Pluralist Model is characterized by a high level of politicization that manifests itself in substantial
    levels of state and political party intervention in many aspects of social life, and strong loyalties among a large part of
    the population towards a wide variety of political ideologies. Such loyalties are accompanied by a wide spread
    skepticism with respect to the idea of a ‘‘common good’’, and there is a relative absence of rules and agreed-upon
    norms. The model is further characterized by an unequal consumption of public information, creating a clear division
    66 C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    3 The authors specify that the media systems of the individual countries fit only approximately with the ideal types that represent their models, and many media systems should be considered mixed cases. Nonetheless, the ideal types are very useful for a comparison of the relational
    norms between the characteristics of the communicational and political systems in order to develop a comparative analysis of them (2004,
    p. 272).
  • 5. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    67
    between the politically active population that avidly consumes political commentary and a politically inactive
    population that consumes very little political information. The informative media is characterized by a high level of
    external pluralism, assuming the role of defenders of diverse political ideologies, and ideological commitment usually
    takes precedence over commitment to a common professional culture. Relationships between journalists and political
    actors are strong, the state actively intervenes in the media sector and the newspapers place significant importance on
    sophisticated commentary directed towards the political activists who regularly read them.
    The Corporate DemocraticModelis characterized by a strong emphasis on the divergent interests of organized social
    groups, but at the same time, by a commitment to the ‘‘common good’’ and the rules and the norms agreed upon across
    social divisions. It places great value on the free circulation of information, and understands that the state has a real
    obligation to encourage that circulation. Moreover, there exists a culture of considerable informational consumption
    regarding public events andmedia culture is characterized by a traditional understanding that the news media are vehicles
    of expression for social groups and for diverse ideologies. There is also a high degree of commitment to norms and
    common procedures and state intervention in the media is extensive. Despite this, media autonomy is greatly valued.
    Similarly, great value is placed upon political information being disseminated to the masses.
    The Liberal Model is characterized by a more individualized concept of representation, in which the role of the
    organized social groups is emphasized less than in the other two systems, organized groups are often viewed in a
    negative light in the sense that they raise ‘special interests’ above the ‘common good’. The role of the state is often
    regarded in negative terms and it is understood the free circulation of information requires limited state intervention.
    The individualist culture tends to give priority to private over public life and the role of the media is often interpreted
    more in terms of providing information to the citizens–consumers and as watchman of the government than in terms of
    representation of social groups and ideological diversity. A common professional culture of journalism is developed to
    some extent, even though not formally institutionalized as it is in the Corporate Democratic Model, and there exists a
    strong emphasis on the limitation of governmental investigation into media operations. For their part, the media often
    direct their programming towards an ample audience of the masses with a limited emphasis on public affairs.
    Finally, the authors perceive a probable relation between the development of the large circulation press and
    professionalization on the one hand, and political parallelism and the role of the state on the other. It is possible that
    professionalization has developed where large circulations exist, in part because both are the result of a strong
    development of capitalism, and democracy among the masses and the middle class, and in part because
    professionalization often develops in large media organizations that are economically autonomous, in those for which
    the relationship between the journalists and their readers is fundamental for the success for the business. On the other
    hand, in countries where the state plays an important role in society, it is probable that parties have deep social roots and a
    significant influence. To a certain extent, it may also operate in reverse: where parties are strong, collective action
    throughout the state could establish a popular medium in order to solve social problems. Additionally, where politics
    occupy a central position in social life and the parties play a fundamental role in the communicative process of decision
    making, it is logical that the influence of politics on the media is considerable and the level of political parallelismis high.
    Guntherand Mughan (2000) conclude that the causal processes that link politics and the media are not one
    dimensional and that the nature of political impact is determined by the interaction between a number of micro- and
    macro-variables that can assume different forms in different countries (2000, p. 403). From the macro point of view they
    recognize that political culture contributes to the configuration ofmediamessages and patterns of circulation; the societal
    structure, media and governmental institutions; norms that govern journalistic and political relationships; regulatory
    practices; and the level of technological development of the communications industry. From the micro-perspective
    Gunther and Mughan refer to the individual characteristics of audience members that condition their receptivity to
    political communication; for example, cultural predispositions; attitudes; the degree of exposure to eachmedium; level of
    education and cognitive complexity; membership of autonomous subcultures or networks of secondary association.
    According to the authors, the media are governed by two regulatory models with a markedly different state role: the
    ‘public service’ model and the ‘commercial’ model. The principal distinction is that the service of public transmission
    is characterized by an emphasis on news and public affairs, documentaries, arts, music and sports and the radio, while
    commercial television transmissions are focused fundamentally on entertainment. The English ‘public service’ model
    represented by the BBC, has been regulated by non-party norms which have been translated into impartial political
    coverage and an equitable access to diverse political parties. The North American ‘commercial model’ has opted for a
    private system of transmission, regionalized and market-oriented characterized by the growing development of
    journalistic constructions of reality that take critical elements of the event out of context into what could be called news
  • 6. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    68
    reality frame (Bennett, 2005). This is a decontextualized account based on an isolated element that has become
    journalistically repackaged into a different story frame. The resulting news reality frame blurs the connection between
    the new reality and its original surrounding context and therefore the precursor to the news reality frame is the pseudo
    event (Boorstein, 1961; quoted in Bennett, 2005). This ‘‘media logic’’ (Altheide & Snow quoted in Bennett, 2005)
    refers to the diffusion of entertainment formats in news and political communication involving larger cultural
    processes, with active input from audience taste, communications producers as arbiters of taste, journalists, and other
    information mediators. The dominant news forms of our time are info-tainment, where the line between hard news and
    info-tainment continues to blur (Schulz et al., 2005). According to Bennett, constructing news reality frames out of
    context may be easier than constructing stories that might help voters separate truth from falsehood (2005).4
    On the other hand, election communication is becoming increasingly media dependent. As parties take advantage
    of mass media for communicating their campaigns, they have to adapt to the media’s production routines and formats,
    diminishing party control over the content and style of campaign messages, which are highly personalized5 and
    growing negativity. Events with a high degree of conflict, drama and emotion are the most successful. It seems that the
    present day tendency towards deregulation of the communications system motivates the predominance of these
    ‘‘Americanizing’’ elements (Bennett, 2005; Negrine & Papathanassopoulos, 1996; Plasser & Plasserquoted in Schultz
    et al., 2005). Mughan and Gunther, recapitulating Postman (1985), conclude that the ‘‘the primary purpose of
    television is to amuse rather than to edify the viewers; it is a medium which presents information in a form that renders
    it simplistic, non-substantive, non-historical and non-contextual; that is to say information packaged as
    entertainment’’ (2000, p. 15). These trends contradict the quality of media performance in democracies, which
    should be assessed in light of the extent to which they impartially present factual information about candidates,
    programs, and policies adequate enough in volume and content to enable citizens to make informed voting election and
    hold governments responsible for their actions (Gunther & Mughan, 2000, p. 15).
    On the other hand, the character of the media market also has implications for the media’s political effects. That is,
    the greater the extent to which citizens depend on one particular medium, the greater the ability of that medium to mold
    public opinion; by contrast, when citizens have a number of information sources from which to choose, they are less
    susceptible to the potential influence of any one of them.6
    As we can appreciate, the structure of the media and the degree of (im)partiality of the media coverage are
    important factors (Boas, 2005); nonetheless, the potential impact of media messages is complex and contingent and
    depend on the interrelation of the micro- and macro-factors within specific societies: some factors may enhance
    reception but at the same time impede acceptance. Due to this, the explicative power of ‘‘the minimal effects’’ model is
    limited for ignoring more subtle manifestations of the impact of the media on individual, and for not taking into
    consideration characteristics of human beings that enable them to resist efforts at manipulation and maintain their
    initial attitudinal predispositions. The limited explanatory power of ‘‘minimal effects’’ makes it impossible to
    comprehend the dual character of transformations in the media system and the societal contexts within which they
    operate (Hallin & Mancini, 2007; Gunther & Mughan, 2000; Paramio, 2002). As Paramio (2002) rightly reminds us,
    not only have the structures and dynamics of the media changed, but also the interpretive mechanisms of information,
    thereby weakening modern ideologies and the identity markers.7
    4 For Bennett (2005), contemporary media logics such as reality TV put emotional arousal and judgment at the center of the audience effects
    equation, as some cultural and emotional issues may simply be too big for reality TV. When popular culture begins to define politics and vice-versa, the result may be a shrinking scope of shared human emotion and comprehension.
    5 The personalization of campaign communication results in an increasing personalization of voters’ political decisions. A growing sophistication of the electorate may contribute to this process (Dalton quoted in Schultz, 2005, p. 69).
    6 For example, the Argentine electorate in the 1989 presidential election was largely unfazed by extensive television-based campaign, largely
    because reading newspapers was almost as common as following the campaign on television. Conversely, three different studies of the 1989
    Brazilian election concluded that in that country (where two thirds of the population are illiterate or semi-literate and where only 3 million
    newspapers are sold daily to a total population of 140 million), manipulation of a completely dominant private television network was decisive in the election of the previously obscure Fernando Collor de Mello as president (Mughan & Gunther, 2000).
    7 According to Paramio, the outcome of the Lewinsky case shifted very much in the opposite direction to that of the apocalyptic prophecies.
    ‘‘Even with the scandalous treatment by the media, in 1998 the citizens voted for the democratic candidates, above all because they supported the management and the politics promoted by the Clinton administration, and in some part due to the republican’s self serving use of the
    Lewinsky case.
    This reveals that secondary criteria were not limiting factors – private morality or character – in evaluating an administration and a political path, but also the limit of the media’s capacity to impose an agenda distant from that of the perceptions and interests of the electorate’’ (2002, p. 464).
  • 7. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    69
    Martínezi Coma (2008) begins with the premise ‘‘the electoral campaign is a key element for representation and
    also for democracy’’, whose ‘‘differential fact is that representatives choose themselves by means of elections’’ (2008,
    p. 5). Understanding the logic of an electoral campaign as a group of strategic decisions in order to obtain citizens’
    votes, is of great theoretical and practical importance.
    The electoral campaign serves as a publicity tool and as a bidirectional control instrument: from citizens to politics
    and vice-versa; and its double utility is produced via one specific object: information. What is important in the end will
    not be how much of an impact the campaign made, but that the information is successfully transmitted to the voters
    (Martínezi Coma, 2008, p. 4). Through the publicity function the electoral campaign helps candidates that present
    themselves by making their proposals public. In other words, candidates are made more transparent and this helps the
    electorate to make their decisions (2008, p. 5).
    The control function is even more complicated, because of its bidirectionality. The control that citizens have over
    politicians is exercised through the vote; that is to say, voters receive the available information, and from there, together
    with their predispositions, make a decision that rewards or punishes the candidate, taking into consideration what the
    government has done up to thatmoment; it is knownas a retrospective vote (Fiorina, 1981). They can alsomake a decision
    by evaluating candidates froma future perspective; this is the prospective vote. However, politicians can also control the
    citizens, by convincing them to act according to the politicians’ view of the world, through a strategic or heresthetical
    management of information.8 During the electoral campaign, politicians strategically give access to information in order
    to influence the citizens through psychological control mechanisms such as framing and priming.
    Framing is a process in which a source of communication, the organizing the news, defines and constructs a
    political event or a public controversy (Nelson et al., cited in Martı´nezi Coma, 2008). In other words, it is a selection of
    a limited number of thematically related attributes which will be included in the media agenda when a specific subject
    is discussed (Mc Combs, 1997, cited in Weaver, McCombs, & Shaw, 2004); it is understood as the central
    organizational idea of news content that gives a meaningful context through a process of selection, emphasis,
    exclusion and elaboration of information (Tankard et al., 1991). These interpretative contexts are also the cognitive
    structure through which the voters’ opinions are organized, that is why elites try to build an analytical context that
    favors them, that is to say a strategic agenda (Budge, 2001). Priming is the criteria used by the citizens to evaluate their
    leaders (Behr & Iyengar, 1985; Scheufele, 2000). In spite of their common psychological origins, the differences are
    clear: framing refers to how changes in news content regarding an event influence attitudes towards a policy, while
    priming refers to how changes in the amount of news regarding an event, affect the evaluative components of the policy
    (Martínez i Coma, 2008, p. 9).
    Moreover, elites are provided with institutional mechanisms of control for the strategic manipulation of the voter. For
    example, the invention or augmentation of newdimensions that could be a benefit for a campaign is introduced primarily
    by the candidates that are ‘‘losing’’. The credibility of the matter aswell as the credibility of the issuer is very important to
    make the recipient think about the subject, which is why manipulation may or may not work in a given situation.
    To summarize, democratic vitality increases proportionate to the quality of election mechanisms and these go
    beyond merely procedural aspects. Elections are founded on the important manner in which cognitive resources are
    distributed to the electorate; and these condition their informed decisions, such as the level of responsibility and the
    participation of both voters and media. If electoral campaigns produce bidirectional control and publicity, that is to say,
    that they guarantee the necessary information for decision making and the responsibility of public participation,
    regulation implies an understanding of the complex character of the relationship between political, social and media
    structures in a particular society. Only through regulations can democratic rights be institutionalized without violating
    intrinsicliberties and rights.
    1.1. Macro-factors in Mexican democratization
    On the basis of these theoretical elements we can approximate a political communication model that characterizes
    changing relations between the political system and the media system in Mexican democratization. Starting from the
    premise of Gunther and Mughan (2000) which states that the nature of political media impact is shaped by the
    contextual and contingent interaction of variables at macro- and micro-levels, we can define theMACRO dimension as
    C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75 69
    8 Heresthetics consists of structuring the world in order to win (Riker, 1993).
  • 8. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
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    the result of interactions between structural conditions of the political and media system – as established by Hallin and
    Mancini (2004) – and the MICRO as linked to cultural, cognitive and attitudinal predispositions of the individuals/
    voters.
    From the MACRO point of view the democratic elections in Mexico cannot be understood outside its historical
    context. The intimate relationship between political and media structures that predominated for decades, typical in an
    authoritarian regime with a hegemonic party, and the modern day configuration of the oligopoly of media property
    structure, constitute a clear limitation to the quality of communications policy.
    From the point of view of structural property the Mexican model reflects a highly concentrated structure, with a
    duopoly in television and a monopoly in telephone and information technologies. According to Villamil (2009), in no
    other part of the world does a commercial television network possess a level of concentration as high in its country of
    origin as Televisa, which owns 65% of the open television frequencies with 225 relay stations in its national networks –
    channels 2, 5, 9 and metropolitan channel 4 – capturing 68% of audiences. Channel 2 is the most viewed in the country.
    Televisa controls 70% of advertising in electronic media, and 58% of the advertising of all mass media. Furthermore,
    this private network controls almost 50% of cable television through Cablevisio´n and its recent acquisitions TV1 and
    Cablema´s, as well as 95% of satellite television by means of its largest investment (58%) in Sky system.
    Moreover, Televisa’s radio division, associated with Radio´polis and the Spanish group PRISA, controls 17 stations.
    Its recent foray into the world of gambling and the editorial arena together constitute 4.7% and 6% of total revenues. Its
    expansion throughout Latin America has been realized by means of the Intermex content distribution company with a
    presence in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Peru.
    The other private network television chain, TV Azteca, is made up of 43 local stations that broadcast through two
    national networks, channels 13 and 7. TV Azteca is also the owner of Azteca America Network, a television network
    created in 2001 and aimed for the Spanish-speaking market of the United States. In 2001 this network acquired
    channel 12 from El Salvador.
    Both private television companies are governed by the commercial model philosophy and oriented towards their
    successful audience ratings from a programming of contents focused on info-tainment with an important dependency
    on income from the sale of commercial advertising, as well as – until 2008 – political and electoral publicity. It is
    important to emphasize that the genres that dominate the programmatic offerings of open television are marketing
    (infomercial advertising segments), movies and programs with a magazine format. For pay-per-view television almost
    two thirds of the air time is made up of films, musical programs and series. According to Jara and Garnica, taking into
    account only the programming that has possibility of reaching all the tele-audience of the country, that is to say,
    programming transmitted by the open television channels, there are three options that the viewers prefer: soap operas,
    movies, and programs with magazine format (Jara & Garnica, 2007). In order to understand the relationship between
    supply and consumption of the different genres of programming, the authors calculate the Alpha coefficient,
    understood as the degree to which actual ratings for genres exceed the anticipated ratings, controlled for transmission
    time slot. In 2005 the genre with greatest Alpha was the reality show, as is evident in Graph 1.
    News along with the television series constitutes the most stable programmatic supply on television. Because of the
    frequency and the schedules, the public can find news programs. Due to the fact that news transmission and reception
    will undergo less variation over time, it is a genre that follows the rule of supply and demand of programming moving
    in the same direction.9 Graph 2 shows the ratings per hour of television news programming compared with other
    televised genres during the years 2002–2003, and the predominance of the genres reality show, soap opera and talk
    show is noticeable in contrast with the minimal incidence of television news. Along the same lines, Graph 3 shows that
    the proportion of time between news transmission and time spent watching news by the total viewers in 2005, make it
    the third lowest genre, equal to its Alpha coefficient and surpassed only by the marketing and sports.
    From the aforementioned, we can conclude that although television is the main source of political information in
    Mexico, the predominantly older audience tends to view programs of a commercial nature such as reality shows, soap
    operas, talk shows and comedies, where it is possible that the treatment of political themes are too distant to provide
    9 For example, in 2000 and 2001 news had greater presence than in 2002 and 2003, given the quantity of important events of these years. In
    addition, the certainty of its Alpha coefficients supposes that the news audience is habitual, constant and established, and contrary to what the
    stereotype might dictate predominantly women and adults (two of every three viewers are older than 30 years of age), and from all socioeconomic levels(Jara & Garnica, 2007).
  • 9. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
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  • 10. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
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    the serious contextual information required for a rational voter to develop a cognitive link between his or her
    predispositions and the political message, and thereby form preferences and attitudes (Zaller, 1992). This is of
    potential importance in the foundation of hot cognitions of political persuasion within the Mexican electorate; in other
    words, faced with a deficit of ‘rational’ informative influences with a conceptual and investigative degree of
    elaboration, the audience will form its perception of policies based on referent ‘‘hooks’’ or easily digested
    characterizations with a predominance of visual elements, caricatures, that are simplistic and predominantly loaded
    with emotionally charged messages. From these elements, he or she will then form a predisposition and a behavior
    towards politics in general, and specifically, subsequent electoral behavior. It is evident that Mexican television is
    following the patterns of the North American private commercial model.
    From the point of view of the media–state relationship system, in Mexico during the decades under the hegemonic
    party structure and the predominance of state–society corporative–client relationships, a relationship of
    subordination–collusion developed among politicians, media and journalists.
    According to Carren˜oCarlo´n (2007), a brief look at Mexico from the end of the Revolution (1910–1917) until the
    first decade of 21st century, would begin with an initial model of media subordination to the public power, which spans
    from approximately 1920 to 1970; then between the end of the seventies and the eighties appears a model of less
    subordination and more collusion of common interests between the media and public power, but still under the
    jurisdiction of political power. In the nineties, while collusion continued, it was possible to distinguish one variable,
    characterized by growing margins of media freedom that gave rise to a blueprint similar to the model of the fourth
    estate. According to this author, at the beginning of the 21st century Mexico has transitioned to a form of ‘‘backwards
    subordination’’ in which the departure point of the first decades of the previous century has been inverted. Public
    power and world politics are now subordinated to the interests of the large media controlled by the power of private
    capital. This new blueprint has elevated the media system to the status of ‘‘first power’’ (Carren˜o, 2007).
    This ‘perverse’ logic that goes from ‘subordination-colluding-fourth power-backwards subordination’ allows us to
    understand the high level of confrontation that characterizes this relationship at the present time, and the logic of the
    recent electoral reforms in early 2008, aimed at reducing the access of the parties to radio and television for authorized
    access by the arbitrator (CDD-IFE, 2008). In a young democracy like Mexico with a pronounced authoritarian
    inheritance and a strong media–political relation, in whose recent history the income of the private television
    companies from political spots reached estimated millions, regulating the media in the election cycle was potentially
    confrontational. By limiting campaign periods and designating an arbiter (the Federal Electoral Institute) ‘‘the only
    authority for administrating the state’s time on radio and television, guaranteeing to the parties the use of their
    prerogatives and establishing guidelines for the allocation of the messages, addressing complaints, condemnations and
    to determine applicable sanctions’’ (CDD-IFE), as shown in Diagram 1, it triggered a dangerous scale of confrontation
    betweentheseactors.
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    73
    Although it is certain that the fundamental intention of the reform is to guarantee equitable access of the parties to
    the electronic media and to regulate the contents of campaigns for the sake of a greater quality of political information,
    due to ‘‘the exhaustive nature of the reforms, there is a major package of secondary legislation that must be adapted to
    the new constitutional mandates in this area’’ (Excelsior, 2/9/09). The arbiter (IFE) faces the risk of regulatory
    overload without the important secondary laws to cover the extent and complexity of specific aspects of regulation.
    In the ‘‘trial by fire’’ of this reform which was the partial legislative elections of July 2009, legal lacunae such as the
    followingweredemonstrated:
    - The National Action Party (PAN) campaign proclaimed the success obtained through the social programs of the PAN
    federal government. This generated criticism on the part of the opposition parties who demanded that IFE restrain the
    PAN campaign. On January 27th in a divided vote IFE ruled that the PAN did not break the law when including the
    successes of the federal government in its campaign. They said ‘‘in the nature of the parties is debate, criticism or the
    defense of governments and their programs’’.
    - On January 31st and February 1st 2009 the case of spots transmitted en masse by the television companies erupted.
    These spots interrupted transmissions of soccer, soap operas, etc. in prime time. The IFE marked the boundaries with
    their decision and demanded an explanation from the television companies. After one week of accusations and
    mutual questioning the law was re-examined and the IFE opted to initiate a special sanctioning procedure against the
    television companies, which caused much tension between the political players, the television companies and the
    electoral arbitrator. Through mediation by the Secretary of State, the television companies and the arbiter agreed not
    to escalate the conflict, accepting the National Chamber of the Industry of Radio and Television’s decision to suspend
    the transmission en masse of the political parties’ spots, avoiding the interruption of high rating programs.
    - The Environmental Green Party of Mexico decided to purchase fixed publicity in soccer stadiums, which are seen
    during the transmission of soccer matches. They looked for other non-regulated spaces to promote themselves.
    - The IFE decided to regulate electronic media so that in political campaigns the news guarantee equitable coverage
    for each and every one of the candidates. This generated public controversy and even caused problems for certain
    legislators ‘‘when trying to regulate the informative content the IFE elevates itself to radio and television
    producer’’.10
    - The IFE attempted to monitor the economic income of ‘‘politically involved people’’ and ran up against its legal
    incapacity to monitor economic income.
    10 For the consultant Roy Campos of the Mitofsky Agency, ‘‘with this decision the IFE becomes producer of the news when requesting the same space for each of the candidates. The informative spaces are based upon the value of the information and
    their mission is to offer the news, not to promoteanyone’s propaganda’’ (Excelsior, 9/2/2009).
  • 12. C.M.R. Arechavaleta / Policy and Society 29 (2010) 65–75
    74
    An experienced lawyer, contracted by TV Azteca recognized publicly that ‘‘there was no legal dictate that
    forces the television companies to offer discrete spots. The guidelines that were returned to us suggest the
    convenience of consolidating them. There being no mandate of the IFE, or a mandate of the law that forces us
    to separate the spots, the company considered its own business interests’’. To conclude: ‘‘It [TV Azteca] did not
    like the IFE. Well, it is one thing to not like them and another thing to have committed an infraction’’ (Excelsior,
    9/2/2009).11
    We have explored certain structural elements to illustrate the complexity of the political-system relationship of the
    media in a young democracy like Mexico, characterized by an authoritarian precedent of a hegemonic party, state–
    society and corporative–client relations. To the extent that the democratization of the political system has valorized the
    electoral process, increasing its own competitiveness, the redefinition of this historic relationship between politicians
    and journalists has acquired importance. The ownership structure of Mexico’s media system, with a dominance of the
    private sector, clearly oriented towards markets and ratings, accentuates the confrontational character of this
    relationship.
    The difficulties of the arbiter – IFE – to regulate this relationship, beginning from the electoral reforms of 2008,
    demonstrate that one of the great challenges of democratic consolidation becomes how to elevate the quality of
    political information beginning with the development of efficient regulatory mechanisms that stimulate the
    cooperation of the actors within a legal framework that does not restrict the rights and liberties associated with
    information; information that belongs to the democracy.
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