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Televisa’s Azcarraga Urges Slim to Compete, Welcomes TV Networks

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Emilio Azcarraga, chairman of Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa SAB, urged billionaire Carlos Slim to stop what he said were actions to block competition in the country’s telecommunications market.

Televisa won’t oppose the Mexican government’s plans to create a new TV network to increase competition in the broadcasting industry, Azcarraga said in an opinion column published yesterday on the Wall Street Journal’s website. Azcarraga’s company also is willing to offer concessions to the nation’s antitrust agency to win approval for its planned entry in the mobile-phone market, he said.

Mexico loses 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product annually from high mobile-phone prices and low Internet use, Azcarraga said, citing a study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Slim has tried to block competition in telecommunications and has used legal tactics to delay regulators, Azcarraga said, without providing examples.

“Mexico is changing for the better. Televisa is too,” Azcarraga said. “So should someone with the vision, the talent and the clout of Carlos Slim.”

Arturo Elias, Slim’s spokesman, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Slim’s mobile-phone company, America Movil SAB, has sought legal orders of constitutional protection against decisions on tariffs and interconnection rules by the nation’s phone regulator. Telefonica SA and Grupo Iusacell SA have used similar tactics.

Mexico’s antitrust agency voted in January to block Televisa’s $1.6 billion plan to take a 50 percent stake in Iusacell, the third-largest mobile-phone carrier in Mexico, after America Movil and Madrid-based Telefonica.

Broadcasting Alliance

The agency rejected the deal in part because it would have created an alliance between Televisa and Ricardo Salinas, who controls Iusacell and TV Azteca SAB, Televisa’s biggest broadcasting rival. Such a partnership might encourage the broadcasters to work together in the TV business, in which they already attract almost all over-the-air viewers, the agency concluded.

Televisa is willing to create “firewalls” to address the agency’s concern, Azcarraga said.

Also in January, Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Commission decided against taking a vote on whether to go forward with plans to grant new broadcast television licenses.

“While we may have seemed against this in the past, Televisa does not oppose the creation of a third, fourth or even fifth nationwide broadcast TV network,” Azcarraga said. “If and when the Communications Commission announces the terms of an auction for additional television frequencies, we will not legally challenge it -- so long as the rules create a level playing field for competition.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Crayton Harrison in Mexico City at tharrison5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ville Heiskanen at vheiskanen@bloomberg.net

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