Hard-Hitting Mexican TV Reports Used to Block Competition

According to The New York Times’ Elisabeth Malkin, Mexico’s largest television network, Televisa, has recently devoted a remarkable amount of air time to hard-hitting news reports on the high prices of medicines driven by the pharmaceutical monopoly held by two companies. Televisa’s only significant rival in the broadcast television industry, TV Azteca, has been doing the same thing, and focussed on the same culprits. The name of one company in particular is apparently being loudly denounced by both networks: Grupo Casa Saba. Remarkable coincidence then, that Isaac Saba Raffoul, the owner of Grupo Casa Saba, recently applied for a broadcast television network license? Unfortunately not.

The irony is painful: the two companies that monopolize the broadcast industry are reporting on the suffering caused by a lack of competition in the pharmaceutical industry, apparently all with the intention of hindering the launch of a competing TV network.

But the implications for journalism make me wince even more. I'm sure the high price of medicine really is of serious concern in Mexico, and Malkin does quote a Televisa spokesman saying that the coverage of the issue is driven by the “real issue” of a pharmaceutical monopoly. The coincidence of these reports' conclusions with the TV networks' own business interests, however, really is too convenient, and, for me at least, this fact ends up discrediting the reporting in its entirety.

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