Religious contents in Mexico seek their space in broadcasting, and although the Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship (LARCP) prohibits any cult group from exploiting a radio concession in the country, they have found a way to do it: renting spaces.
Currently, radio in Mexico is undergoing a transformation to adapt to new forms of content consumption and the generation of new business models that allow broadcasting companies to generate income. Some have chosen to rent their frequencies: Grupo ACIR, for example, does so with 1260 AM, which broadcasts La Guadalupana.
“It is a practice that started on television. For example, Televisa rented temporary spaces to religious groups, ”says Jorge Bravo, president of the Mexican Association for the Right to Information (Amedi). “But it is not justified that there are religious messages all day, however it happens because these religious groups have money and an audience of parishioners willing to receive their messages. It is a virtuous circle for them but it is a compromising situation because they do not have permission to have concessions and should not have a permanent presence, “he adds.
Among the stations with a religious tinge are Radio Tepeyac, which is broadcast on 93.3 FM in San Cristóbal de las Casas; Word Live at 107.7 FM in Chihuahua; Radio Omega of 830 AM in Mexico City; Radio Rhema JCV on 88.7 FM in Jalisco, among others.
Michel Hernández Tafoya, director of the Observatory of Telecommunications of Mexico (Observatel), thinks that the subjectivity or lack of clarity in the Law of Religious Associations opens a gray space that people who are interested in transmitting religious content take advantage of. “It seems to me that it is a way of turning around the spirit and the essence of the Law of Religious Associations,” he says.
The Ministry of the Interior, which was not available to comment, is in charge of endorsing this type of content and the IFT of not granting broadcasting concessions to religious groups.
Adolfo Cuevas, interim president of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), explains that neither the Constitution nor the Law of Religious Associations expressly prohibit religious content in radio broadcasts; the only thing that is not allowed is that a concession be given to whoever is registered with the Association of Religious Groups.
“If we detect that someone who transmits or wants to transmit is a minister of the Religious Association, we pass it on to (the Ministry of) the Interior. We have denied requested concessions because we see that a minister is involved. It has happened that the Government clarifies to us that it is a homonym and then we grant it. But we do have communication with the government, ”Cuevas said.
Government and religion, come closer
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opened the debate on whether to grant concessions to religious groups when he met with the National Confraternity of Evangelical Christian Churches (Confraternice) in 2019. That same year, the IFT awarded a concession to the Vision of God, which was withdrawn a week later due to pressure from public opinion.
“This case passed us by and we have been accused, and with good reason, and then we tried to solve it,” admitted Cuevas.
The interim president of the IFT is in favor of opening the debate about religious content on the radio via the leasing of frequencies. “I know that the majority have a Juarista vision of the subject but Mexico is a very special case in the world. Here there is a very broad openness to the religious that does not exist in any other part of the world. I see the debate useful, ”he said.
The director of Observatel comments that in a context in which the Executive and these religious groups have communication, it is necessary for the Government and the IFT to be more coordinated to verify that the Law of Religious Associations is not violated.
“It could be said that now there is a more favorable environment for this type of associations and ministers of worship to have access to broadcasting stations, so Segob must be authorizing this type of transmissions,” said Hernández Tafoya.