Friday, November 16, 2007

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

For everyone sick of the endless presidential campaign (and just three more years until Decision '12 kicks off!), have I got a country for you: Mexico, which just enacted a sweeping law that should more or less put an end to paid political ads. Amazingly, only the AP has covered this in English:

A broad electoral reform that infuriated Mexico's broadcast industry by barring political parties from buying radio and television advertisements will take effect on Wednesday.

The reform attempts to level the political playing field by requiring television and radio stations to broadcast 48 minutes of free political advertising each day and forbidding parties from buying their own air time. In past elections, there was no limit on how many ads political parties could buy.

It also limits presidential campaigning to three months before election day, and forbids political parties from insulting political institutions and candidates.

This doesn't even begin to get at how extreme this thing is, though. The headline in El Universal is "The End of Political Announcements."

La Secretaría de Gobernación ordered the electronic media to pull all political ads that serve to promote any public servant, because of the reform of Article 134 that went into effect yesterday.

The new regulation states that in no case should officials announcements include names, images, voices or symbols that imply the promotion of public servants. The measure applies to all communications media, from radio, television and print to billboards and the internet.

Here we have a nation without an ingrained history of free political speech that, over the last few election cycles, got its first taste of American-style money-drenched political advertising, and has reacted in horror. Good for them. The problem is that the new law (which I should say I have not read, nor would I likely understand if I tried) seems overly broad and confusing. For instance, one of the first things to be taken off the air is this video clip of President Calderon addressing the nation on the flooding in Tabasco.

Okay, please tell me you didn't just click that. Haven't you been paying attention? You're breaking the law! Or worse, you're causing me to break the law. (I told the missus she didn't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. But did she listen?)

So you can see where the concept of "promoting a public servant" could be a bit...vague. If a video of the president discussing a massive natural disaster can no longer be aired, then, really, what sort of political imagery can be circulated via the media? Unless someone offers a different interpretation of this law soon, the entire Mexican government is basically going underground.

In our little neck of the woods, the big loser appears to be Big Brother himself, Governor Francisco "Paco" Garrido, whose grinning, doughy visage gazes down from more posters, billboards, radio, tv, and newspaper ads than Kim Jong Il. This is one of the aspects of life here I've been meaning to write about, which is the pervasive and overpowering stench of one-party political propaganda. I must see Gov. Garrido's face 25 times a day. Every time the state or local government spends money in the public interest - to widen a road, repair a bridge, rescue a cat from a tree - they (it's not clear to me if it's the government or the PAN Party, though here they're pretty much synonyms) erect a billboard like the one you see here, in the blue and white colors of the Party, with Paco's face, a description of the project, how much it cost, and how many people it will benefit. Think I'm kidding? This sign heralds the construction of a $700,000 highway guardrail, which will benefit 720,000 queretanos. This is usually followed up with a tv, print or radio ad. Laura and I like to sing along with the jingle that ends each ad: "Que-re-ta-roooo es me-JOR!" Then the baritone announcer: Santiago de Querétaro! Paco Garrido, gober-na-DOR!

And now they're all coming down. Presumably, they'll be replaced with signs hailing the removal of the previous signs. The cost will, seriously, be quite substantial. 1.5 million queretanos will benefit.

1 comment:

'Eddie Willers' said...

Weeeel, there's a similar thing going on here at municipal level in Tampico.

In 2004, PAN were defeated for the Mayor's office. Immediately, the city vehicles, police squad cars, trash cans, park benches - anything that was blue, white or orange - was repainted in the PRIist colors of red, greeen and white.

Of course, who could decry such 'patriotismo' in the use of the very colors of la bandera mexicana?