two short weeks after singing the wonders of mexican radio and sticking my tongue out at a big u.s. communications monopoly, i took in the morning headlines like a punch in the stomach. the senate voted for the "televisa law" yesterday.
for months, radio stations have broadcast their dissent and respected artists and intellectuals have published their concern over the passage of communications reform that sneers in the face of democracy and gives a firm handshake to the exclusionary forces of money and power. the gist of it is this: in a supposed attempt to keep in stride with the world of digital media, the bill would allow for branching into digital services simply by notifying the government. that sounds good, but the catch lies in that only television and radio stations that have already been assigned a frequency can develop those digital services through government notification, while potential new competitors would have to participate in a public bidding process. since nine out of ten mexican television viewers watch channels owned by only two companies, you can imagine the immediate shutout of many small community and educational radio and television broadcasters. media expert, nestor cortés, clearly defines the situation when saying, "money will define the right to communicate...everything about the new law shows clearly what power the television companies have and use...and how politicians and members of the business community are made to serve their purposes." it is absolutely disgusting to think about.
the vote will again be debated tomorrow, providing another opportunity for the bill's proponents to share the reasons for their affirmative decision. while dissenters presented clear arguments against the bill, the supporters remained virtually mute. as one senator said, "this vote of silence is an embarrassment." i can't imagine a truer and doubly-layered statement. not only is a vote in favor of such a "telecratic" bill shameful, it seems that a number of the supporters' votes were nothing less than surrender to pressure and threats received by affiliates of the major broadcasting companies. if i'm feeling outraged, i can only imagine how difficult it must be for the senators opposing the bill to maintain any measure of composure in front of those who voted "yes."
but i know a little san pedro secret, helping me keep a semblance of a smile while i fume about the disappointing news. i like to call it "radio el charco." i'm sure hundreds of towns have something like it: speakers tied to telephone poles around a central spot in town, delivering music and local news that cost no frequency fees (click on the photos to see the speakers more clearly). it isn't a broadcast, but it's still a small and independent way to share sounds and information with the public. el charco, "the puddle," is a low-lying area of san pedro where various roads converge and a park provides public space for students, vendors and passers-by. patricio surmises that it acquired its name from the pool of water that must have formed there during the rainy season, before the drainage was put into place. now the things that flow freely in and around the area are people of all ages, the volkswagen buses that shuttle us around, and the all-day stream of "radio el charco," free from any legal constraints that the senate might enact. as i passed through yesterday on the way to pay the bills, cafe tacuba's classic cover of "como te extraño" was hovering in the air. that title, translated as "oh, how i miss you," unfolds a lyric of both desperation and doomed hope, going crazy without her and hoping she'll come back. i'll bet café tacuba wouldn't mind if i took it as a metaphor for broadcasting freedom. i also hope she comes back, even if she's gone for good.