SAN DIEGO -- If you live in San Diego, you’ve probably heard something like this on a local commercial radio station:
“In this election you are going to decide which Mexico you want to live in....”
And you may have said to yourself, “But I don’t live in Mexico.”
Some stations in the San Diego area are running a lot of campaign ads for Mexican presidential candidates and politicians these days. It’s because they are required to.
“It is a part of our agreement with the Mexican government since the transmitter sites are in Mexico,” said Tex Meyer, vice president and general manager of BCA radio.
The company owns several stations in San Diego, including the San Diego Padres flagship station, XX 1090 am. The transmitters for those stations are in Baja California.
In fact, all call signs for U.S. stations broadcasting from Mexico start with an "X."
“We lease that license from the Mexican owners and as part of that obligation, the Mexican government says we have to run these announcements on the air,” Meyer explained.
During the election season, this means political ads for candidates.
In Mexico these ads are financed by the public. Candidates, political parties and individuals are prohibited from spending their own money on television or radio spots.
Stations are not compensated for running the advertisements provided to the them by the Mexican government.
There are U.S.-owned stations with transmitters in Mexico all along the border. Most of these stations broadcast in Spanish, but in San Diego, many of them do so in English.
The phenomenon dates back to the 1930s, when stations in U.S. border towns found they could get a stronger signal — and avoid U.S. regulations — by leasing transmitters in Mexico.
Today, many border blasters have transferred back to Mexican hands, and play Spanish-language pop and ranchera music.
But if you do hear an ad for a Mexican politician on your local radio station in the U.S., it may be because the station is broadcasting from south of the border.
If you can’t vote in the Mexican elections — because you’re not a Mexican citizen — well, you can think of these ads as educational. You might just learn something about the future president of our neighbor to the south.