Throughout the 20th century, authoritarianism (Linz, 1970) characterized the Mexican regime, with its limited political pluralism and articulation of socioeconomic demand. Clientelism and corporatism (Schmitter, 1979) were the simultaneous mechanisms of control and mutually beneficial arrangements, leaving little room for the expression of autonomous social and political interests. Based on the private commercial US model, corporatism granted the regime technical and economic benefits favoring the development of media outlets as profitable businesses, in exchange for unrestricted political support (Guerrero, 2011). The media constantly promoted the regime's positive image, especially with regard to domestic politics, while the regime employed a complex range of mechanisms to benefit them, from tax exemptions and subsidies to compensatory salary for journalists and favorable media regulations (Guerrero, 2011).
Low levels of readership plagued the printed press, with under 400,000 copies of “serious press” publications in circulation by the early 1990s, at a time when the New York Times sold more than one million copies a day (Trejo Delarbre 1991, p 28). This readership nevertheless comprised economic and social groups that made the press a relevant mouthpiece for their interests, though never a truly informative channel for society at large. Furthermore, the largest broadcasting groups became linked to political groups. News broadcasts legitimized the regime, especially the president. These mutually beneficial exchanges between media and politics generated a situation defined by one expert as “environmental censorship”: “More than open governmental control over the press [and media, in general], it involves self-censorship … [where media] know the limits they can, or at least want to, reach. Different control mechanisms are not used, because in the end, they are unnecessary” (Granados Chapa, 1981, p 9). This environmental censorship “defined the context of complicity between media and regime that enabled the former's consolidation as profitable businesses in exchange for limited public debate and unrestricted political support” (Guerrero, 2011, p 235). In this context, there was no need to promote more robust investigative journalistic practices or policy research units in the media, since information on public affairs and politics was an outcome of such beneficial exchanges.