The Mexican media can be very sensationalist, and news is mostly local, and often heavily slanted towards the government, but for those who know Spanish there is an independent press, and some interesting programmes on TV.
Few domestic newspapers carry much foreign news, and the majority of international coverage does not extend beyond Latin America. Most papers are lurid scandal sheets, brimming with violent crime depicted in full colour. Each state has its own press, however, and they do vary: while most are little more than government mouthpieces, others are surprisingly independent.
If you read Spanish, Reforma has a good reputation for independence and political objectivity, while the more left-wing La Jornada is quite daringly critical of government and organized crime, and its journalists regularly face death threats as a result. The press has gradually been asserting its independence since the mid-1990s, tackling such subjects as human rights, corruption and drug trafficking, though journalists still face danger if they speak out, not only from shady government groups but also from drug traffickers. Reporting on links between the two is particularly dangerous. Over 84 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000; press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders rates it the most dangerous country for journalists on the American continent, and equal with Iraq as the second most dangerous in the world after Pakistan.
You can usually pick up a dozen channels in Mexico without cable or satellite. Four are run by the main TV company, Televisa, and another two by TV Azteca. Canal 22 tends to show cultural programmes, though they are often rather dry. Canal Once is the most original and independent channel, and frequently has something quite interesting on, especially late in the evening. Cable and satellite are now widespread, and even quite downmarket hotels offer numerous channels, many of them American.
On Mexican TV you can watch any number of US shows dubbed into Spanish, but far and away the most popular programmes are the telenovelas – soap operas that dominate the screens from 6pm to 10pm and pull in millions of viewers. Each episode takes melodrama to new heights, with nonstop action and emotions hammed up to the maximum for riveted fans. Plot lines make national news, and telenovela stars are major celebrities, despite their ludicrously over-the-top acting styles.
Radio stations in the capital and Guadalajara (among others) have programmes in English for a couple of hours each day, and in many places US broadcasts can also be picked up. Reactor (in Mexico City on 105.7MHz FM, and online at wreactor.imer.com.mx), plays a mix of music including modern Mexican sounds, and from México state, Radio Chapingo (1610kHz AM, wchapingo.mx/radiochapingo/live/index.html) plays the traditional music of indigenous ethic groups as well as modern Mexican music of various genres. If you have a short-wave radio, you can get the Voice of America (wvoa.gov) and at certain times, Radio Canada (wrcinet.ca).
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