TVs to Move Mexico
By Jesús Aguado
From November 10 to16, more than 18,000 sanmiguelenses in extreme poverty received digital televisions. The screens were packed in boxes that displayed big letters reading “To Move México.” Most of the beneficiaries do not know the reason why they received the TVs, but what they do know is that they can now watch soap operas and movies.
The Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) established December 31, 2015, as a deadline to switch over public television transmissions from analog to digital. The switchover, which would be done step-by-step in the country, started in 2013 in Tijuana, where the population was not prepared with digital devices or a decoders. As a consequence, more than 14,000 families could not access the television channels. Consequently, the analogue switch-off was canceled for two months to prepare the inhabitants and to allow local elections.
To keep providing the service to those most in need, the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) started handing over digital televisions on the northeast border this year. In the center of the country, the hand-over was scheduled for January 2015; however, it started on November 10. The Public Relations Department of SEDESOL informed Atención that they do not have information about the program. All they know is that the Secretariat of Communications and Transportations requested a register of beneficiaries of social programs, and those people would be selected to receive the televisions. SEDESOL has August 2015 as a deadline to give out all the screens. At that time, more than 14 million families will have their new televisions.
According to an employee from the State Secretariat of Social Development—who had restricted information—18,834 screens were destined to this city. At the COMUDE building on the road to Dr. Mora, the beneficiaries started arriving at 4am to receive their TVs. Access to the press was restricted, and they could not do interviews inside the building or the park.
Most of those who received the televisions were from rural communities. Some of them talked to Atención, saying that they did not know why they were receiving the TVs. “I think I got lucky in a raffle,” said Demetria Ramírez from Corralejo. Juanita Espinosa commented, “The government loves us and give us televisions. That is good; but I would have preferred something for my kitchen. I don’t know, something like a refrigerator or a stove. I already have a television.” When Atención asked them what they would watch on their new TVs, they answered, “soap operas, movies, and the news.”
Local TV station ready for the analog switch-off
The local TV station Channel 4 faces the challenge of modernization (change from analog transmission to digital). However, Luz María Núñez, the executive producer, assures that they are ready for the change of technology.
Channel 4 is a cultural channel that started operations 14 years ago. Since its beginning, it aimed to give sanmiguelenses an opportunity to be identified with their culture and traditions along with the opportunity of being in touch with other citizens who live in San Miguel. The cultural programing of the channel is oriented to creating conscience and analysis of the current reality.
The executive producer told Atención that six months ago the IFT notified them of the decree for changing the technology. According to Núñez, the TV station currently has a digital system, and they need only the transmitting antenna, which costs more than 300,000 pesos.
Núñez, former mayor of San Miguel, stated that the government merely fulfilled its task of informing them about the change. It did not offer a subsidy for the modernization, nor will it. Channel 4 is part of the nonprofit organization Proyección Cultural Sanmiguelense, operating on donations. Núñez noted that currently there are some private organizations that will help to cover the price of the antenna.
She commented that Channel 4’s signal is free for people in rural communities and in the urban zone who do not have a TV cable or satellite system. They need only a regular antenna that costs less than 35 pesos. She also commented that thanks to a federal legal mandate, Channel 4 has been included in the TV cable system—Channel 4 on CVR and 83 on Megacable. This decision, she said, allows people to have a balance in the information provided and make well-informed decisions.
In the new digital television system, Channel 4 will be found on Channel 23. Núñez said that after December 2015, the analogue system will keep operating for a few months until there is only digital. She remarked that it is just a transition.
With regard to handing over of televisions by the federal government to people in extreme poverty, Lucy Núñez said that it was wasteful and excessive spending. She believes that it is a strategy by the government with TELEVISA and TV Azteca to avoid losing the audience with the change of technology, a strategy for having a sleeping society. She also expressed that she is ashamed of the current political situation in the country, where the administration is failing because it has lost credibility and trust. “Even those who voted for Peña Nieto have regrets now,” she said in closing.
Some local inhabitants involved with culture gave their thoughts on this topic
César Arias, President of El Charco del Ingenio
The government is giving televisions to buy the population’s vote because they choose to hand them over just before the elections. This is offensive at this moment when the society is tired of the political class that controls the country.
David F. Barajas, Co- founder of La Expendeduría
They say that if something is free, the product is the people. I believe that the government never would give something that does not bring it a benefit. On one hand is the necessity of keeping the businesses of the advertisers active since they need that audience, and on the other is the necessity for manipulation and disinformation.
Klaudia Óliver, Director of La Calaca festival
It is a way of saying, “Here is more junk.” I think that we need less television and more cultural activities that will let us know each other. The government should invest more money in recovering public spaces and in cultural events.
Sara Hoch, Director of GIFF (Guanajuato International Film Festival)
I have to say that in all the history of Mexico, this is not my favorite government. I know that the federal government conducted a study to decide if they could give decoders to the population, and it was more expensive than the idea of giving them televisions. I think it is interesting that the government modernized the houses of families and provided them more educational opportunities.