Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

A view of Tijuana along the U.S.-Mexico border / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Corruption and violence are top issues in the upcoming Mexican presidential election, Maya Srikrishnan noted in this week’s Border Report. One thing that hasn’t been a big deal in the contest: the United States. “The U.S. has not been bashed in the Mexico election because at the end of the day, we all recognize that the U.S. is so important to Mexico that we have to be the adult in the room,” said one expert on U.S.-Mexico relations.

Speaking of the Mexican election, why is it all over my radio?

“Vote free. Vote free. You vote free. It is your decision because your vote counts and you will choose it,” declares the voice on 105.7 Max FM, a local radio station devoted to playing artists like Madonna, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson. “You vote free, you investigate proposals, you choose, and you demand to be fulfilled. You vote free. Because you care for Mexico. This July 1st. INE.”

Then it all repeats, threatening to give listeners a nasty case of repetitive weirdness disorder.

Across the English-language dial, San Diego radio fans are getting an earful about the upcoming Mexican presidential election from public service announcements like this one from Mexico’s election authority. Campaign ads are airing too.

“What are they claiming in this electoral process? What they want and what they claim is what they believe in,” says a head-scratching promo for a candidate for senator who believes in “freedom,” “Mexicans” and “the Mexican family.”

Shouldn’t Mexican politics be on Mexican radio stations? Yes, and that’s the point. While they broadcast in English, a long list of local radio stations —  including 91X, Magic 92.5, Mighty 1090 and Z90.3 — have transmitters in Mexico. That means they have to follow Mexican rules and play Mexican public service announcements and political commercials. The quirky part is that these don’t need to be in Spanish or even well-translated, making for some peculiar listening experiences.

“These non-paying PSAs can be a nuisance, but they’re 100 percent necessary to maintain a Mexican broadcasting license,” said former 91X host Chris Cantore. “In an effort to not turn off listeners, they are usually buried in spot blocks [blocks of ads], or reserved for weekend overnight broadcasting, when the listening audience is the smallest.”

The announcements are notoriously bland, as if the people recording them lost their souls to the devil in a blackjack game, and this is some sort of penance. “It’s kind of like the audio version of being blurred out on video,” Cantore said.

“We try to make them work as best as we can, but we don’t have a great deal of latitude in that regard,” said Mike Glickenhaus, president and market manager of the Broadcast Company of the Americas, which operates 105.7 Max and the sports stations Mighty 1090 and ESPN 1700, which all transmit from Mexico.

This post originally appeared in the June 19 Morning Report.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.