MEXICO CITY — The Mexcan government this month will launch a new TV network aimed at the working and rural classes, with domestic programming designed to strengthen "the national identity," officials said.
Government-owned Channel 7 will start its programming, soon to become 24 hours a day, at 7 a.m. Saturday through 99 repeater stations covering 72% of the nation's territory--bigger than any existing private TV network.
The government first entered the TV field, in direct competition with the giant, privately owned Televisa, in the early 1970s when it bought a small bankrupt Mexico City station, Channel 13. It has since expanded that station into a national network with 44 repeater stations.
Until now, a viewer in the Mexico City metropolitan area had the choice of six channels, four owned by Televisa, one cultural channel run by the main national university and Channel 13.
A recent cable system, also owned by Televisa, which in turn is managed by a group including the son of a former president and a newspaper baron, has only about 60,000 subscribers in upper-middle-class suburbs.
The government, sensitive about what kind of entertainment and information is offered to the people and how government actions are portrayed, appears to have felt there were not enough alternatives for the viewing public.
Pablo Marentes, chief of Imevision, the government television institute that will coordinate the activities of all government television outlets, said in an interview with United Press International that Channel 13's programming will be aimed at the upper and middle urban classes.
He said the new Channel 7 will be aimed at "the popular classes"--workers and peasants, representing about 70% of Mexico's 78 million people.
The new network will have commercials but will carry no liquor or cigarette advertising and will accept only ads for "necessary consumer goods and services," he said.
Marentes denied the government is trying to monopolize the mass media or crowd out privately owned television. On the contrary, he said, the opening of the new channel shows "our vital interest in strengthening the mixed economy that we have."
"This is an alternative system," Marentes said, adding that there will be no pressure on anyone to watch a state channel over a private one.
Other Channel 7 officials said the initial start-up budget for the new channel was amazingly low--just more than $1 million--because Channel 7 will not even have its own building. It will operate largely with Channel 13's facilities.
Channel 7 programming will be aimed at "strengthening our national identity," Marentes said, adding that programming will have a maximum of only 15% foreign content.
Most of Televisa's popular evening shows come from the United States, from series such as "Dallas" and "Magnum P.I.," to specials such as the Miss America and Miss U.S.A. pageants.
Marentes said the new channel will be "an efficient instrument at the service of the Mexican state."
It will feature education programs during the day, entertainment at night and short news breaks every 30 minutes.