Maria Rubio speaks for many actors who have been blacklisted by Televisa. The 32-year Televisa veteran is best known for her role in "Wolf Cradle," a hit soap opera. Over coffee on the patio of her condominium, which enjoys a view of Televisa's southern Mexico City studios, the strawberry-blond actress recalls the incident that ended her career. After finishing "Wolf Cradle" four years ago, she accepted an offer for a 12-hour series on Puerto Rico's Super-7 high-power channel.
"I knew I was gambling with my career," she says. "My attitude was one of rebellion. I wanted to accept this opportunity. If all actors would do it, Televisa would have no choice but to accept things as they should be."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 10, 1991 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Robert Maxwell--In the article "El Tigre" in today's Los Angeles Times Magazine, there is a reference to British media baron Robert Maxwell. The magazine was printed before Maxwell's death last week.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Sunday December 15, 1991 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 7 Times Magazine Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
In "El Tigre" (Nov. 10), there was an incorrect reference to the late Reynold V. Anselmo. Anselmo is still living. Also, Channel 22 in Los Angeles was incorrectly described as a former cable station.
Back in Mexico, Televisa's doors were closed to her. Even theater managers said they could not cast her in plays because Televisa would then refuse their advertising. She was finished. "I look upon this as a divorce," Rubio says. "I was married to Televisa for 32 years, and we had lots of children together--the shows I made. Now, the man does not love me any more. It's over."
Roberto Rivera, Los Angeles-based manager of the 13-member salsa band Banda Blanca, did not accept the veto so philosophically. The band cut short a tour in Chicago this summer to appear on Televisa's popular Sunday variety show, "Siempre en Domingo." But when they stepped off the plane in Mexico City, Rivera learned that their TV appearance had been canceled. Banda Blanca had appeared on an awards show in Miami sponsored by Billboard magazine and a U.S. Spanish-language network in May. The program aired on Imevision, Mexican government television, and an angry Azcarraga reportedly banned all the artists on the awards show from Televisa.
Rivera was incredulous. "International artists have a right to work. Why must we bow to Mr. Azcarraga? What's going to happen when there's a common market if they can't accept competition? What happens if (a) Ted Turner comes in here?"
Faced with bad publicity over the issue, Miguel Aleman Magnani, Televisa vice president of corporate image, publicly denied that the artists were banned, and the company invited Banda Blanca to appear on another show, La Movida, in September. Officials also deny that the company keeps any kind of a blacklist, but former employees and competitors confirm its existence. "We have had to pay more to people who fear being banned by Televisa because they work with us," says Vargas, the pay-TV network owner. "The fear costs us money."
The government has announced plans to sell one of its two national networks, and the bidders include Multivision. The Vargas family owns 19 radio stations and a restaurant chain as well as the pay-TV network; winning the bid for the network would give them a chance to go head to head with Televisa after years of nibbling at the edges of the giant's market.
Televisa vice president Burillo says that his company is actually looking forward to the competition when the government network is sold. "We are always the focus of criticism. Now there will be a point of comparison."
Despite such talk, Televisa's greatest successes in the United States came when the company operated as a Spanish-language monopoly north of the border. In 1961, while other Mexican businesses were content to serve a carefully protected domestic market, Televisa was buying up U.S. television stations. Azcarraga's network covered most Spanish-speaking regions of the United States by 1986, relaying Mexican-made programming to his U.S. stations through a sophisticated satellite system in Laguna Niguel.
The technical success and expansion did not stop squabbles with his U.S. partners, who felt Azcarraga was taking an undue share of the profits. Then the Federal Communications Commission accused Azcarraga of using a time-honored Mexican ploy for circumventing inconvenient laws restricting ownership: \o7 prestanombres\f7 or, literally, borrowed names. Azcarraga, as a foreigner, was limited to a 20% interest in the U.S. stations. The government charged that Azcarraga controlled them through in-name-only partners such as the late Reynold V. Anselmo, a New York businessman who borrowed money from Azcarraga to buy a 25% stake in the company. Under pressure from the commission, Azcarraga agreed to sell.
For now, Televisa is trying to rebuild its U.S. network by purchasing air time. The Mexican company buys evening time slots from Channel 22 in Los Angeles, a former cable station that broadcasts business news during the day. A Houston station also recently began to show Televisa programming. Televisa does not have an ownership interest in either station.
Meanwhile, Azcarraga has expanded into video stores, real estate development and publishing in the United States, with less than spectacular results. The National could not win enough readers away from the sports sections of local papers and specialty publications to build a circulation base, and it quickly folded.