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Mexico agrees to revised TV network auction plan for 2014

MEXICO CITY, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Mexico's new telecommunications watchdog said on Wednesday it had revised the program for the planned auction of at least two nationwide television networks next year in order to weaken the duopoly power of the domestic market's two dominant players.

The Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) said the tenders would be in 2014 but did not give a narrower time frame for the plan, which aims to foster competition in an industry led by broadcaster Televisa, the world's largest producer of Spanish-language television content.

In a statement, the IFT said the program would include 246 frequencies, or channels, and reach a bigger section of the country, both in terms of population and geography, than the model proposed by the government in 2012.

Last year's plan had foreseen opening up 306 channels, but the IFT said 68 of those were eliminated since the areas they would cover were already being serviced by alternative providers.

Eight other frequencies were added to the list to improve coverage in poorly-served regions of the country.

The auctions aim to help challenge the dominance of Televisa and its main competitor TV Azteca, which together have about 95 percent of the broadcast television market.

Both companies are seeking to compete with billionaire Carlos Slim in the telephone market he dominates.

Meanwhile Slim, who started 2013 the world's richest man, is looking to enter the television market, but has been kept out by the government so far due to fears he could crush rivals.

The plan also reduces to 65 from 112 the number of channels in the 600 Megahertz spectrum, the IFT added.

The government earlier this year passed a sweeping overhaul of the telecommunications industry that aims to bolster competition in both the phone and TV markets.