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Canal 40 Ends 7-Month Strike

MEXICO CITY -- Workers at cash-strapped Canal 40 have settled a strike that forced the indie broadcaster to go off the air for nearly seven months, union leader Ricardo Acedo said Monday.

Union-represented crewmembers at the Mexico City television station were demanding $5 million in back pay. Mexican network TV Azteca, which claims to own a controlling interest in the tiny broadcaster, provided the money to end the labor dispute. That has led to speculation that the nation's No. 2 network is flexing its muscle as it looks to take control of Canal 40.

"These things can only happen in Mexico," former Canal 40 anchorman Ciro Gomez told Radio Formula. "It's like imagining General Motors (intervening to settle a strike) for Ford."

Azteca and Canal 40 have been embroiled in a series of legal battles concerning ownership rights. The two companies had a programming and advertising partnership that fell apart in 2000. The conflict came to a head in December 2002 when armed guards, allegedly hired by Azteca, seized control of the station's transmission tower and studio. Shortly after the takeover, the federal government ordered Azteca to return the facilities to Canal 40.

It remains unclear when Canal 40 will be back on the air. Hernan Cabalceta, representative of Canal 40's parent company TVM, told local media Monday that the channel must first evaluate its financial situation. Cabalecta negotiated the settlement with the Radio and Television Industry Labor Union.

In July, Canal 40 received a $5 million loan offer from GE Mexico to resolve the labor dispute. GE, parent company of NBC-owned Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo, has made no secrets about its plans to gain a foothold in the Mexican market. Since Mexican law prohibits foreign ownership of television stations, the Federal Competition Commission was probing the matter.

GE Mexico has said on numerous occasions that it has no intention of acquiring Canal 40.


John Hecht writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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