“The best regulation is unfettered competition; and the best judges are empowered consumers”
Lina Enriquez, vice president of legal at DIRECTV Latin America, tells Leaders League about the workings of DIRECTV's legal team in Latam, the most important initiatives the company has undertaken in recent years and the current state of regulation in the satellite TV sector.
Leaders League: What role does the legal team at DIRECTV play in the life of the company?
Lina Enriquez: There are three elements that I am proud to say are fundamental characteristics of DIRECTV´s legal team. First, DIRECTV's in-house lawyers are at the heart of the business, not simply watching from the sidelines, waiting to be called upon when needed.
We work in the trenches, side by side with our fellow members of staff, closely advising them on creating growth opportunities for the company. Second, DIRECTV's lawyers know how to navigate complex and uncertain legal frameworks, while intelligently assessing risks and proposing alternative solutions for the business. And third, we firmly believe that there is no success without integrity -̶ we do the right thing for our subscribers, our competitors, and our teams.
DIRECTV's legal team throughout Latin America is also extremely diverse, not only in terms of gender and age etc., but also when it comes to expertise, skills and legal background. We see diversity as a strength and take advantage of it to innovate, create synergies and share best practices.
Working from various locations across Latin America has not limited the way we communicate and learn from one other. For example, on a quarterly basis we hold tailor-made in-house legal forums, where our experts share their knowledge and best practices with the rest of the team, which is spread throughout ten different jurisdictions.
I have proudly been part of DIRECTV's Legal team for over nine years. I currently oversee the legal teams for the North and Andean regions; a group of fantastic professionals who know the laws and regulations of their markets inside out and have a profound understanding of satellite TV business.
What have been the most important advances of the company during the last years?
At DIRECTV we share a common and powerful purpose; we work every day to make sure Latin American households receive best-in-class entertainment through cutting-edge technologies. DIRECTV has remained committed to this principle regardless of political turmoil, inflationary economics, reduced margins, fierce competition, and the global pandemic.
Not only that. In recent months, DIRECTV has made a considerable effort to continue bringing to our subscribers the content they love and more exclusive events, through DIRECTV Sports, On DirecTV, and our brand-new channel, DIRECTV Sports Fight. DIRECTV is also experimenting with new transmission formats for football games and strengthening the presence of its VOD platform, DIRECTV GO, in the region.
Our company is deeply committed to the communities we serve and to using our technology and content to help bridge the digital gap in Latin America. That is why advances have also been made in bringing educational content and satellite technology to public schools in rural areas of the region. Just one example of this is the contribution that DIRECTV recently made through its social responsibility program, Escuela+, to build out and bring educational content to Colombia’s first-ever sustainable rural public school, located in San Jerónimo, Antioquia.
DIRECTV is deeply committed to the communities we serve and to using our technology and content to help bridge the digital gap in Latin America
How have regulatory changes in the communications or technology sector that impacted the company recently?
Actually, I would say it is the lack of regulatory progress concerning the new audiovisual ecosystem which is negatively impacting the industry, competition and subscribers. As DIRECTV's Director of Global Strategy and External Affairs, Carlos Magariños, explained recently in a forum organized by the Wilson Center, Latin America’s current regulatory frameworks were written a decade ago for an analog world that did not take into account the disruptive changes brought by the digitalization and new market competitors, such as streaming platforms.
This has left the traditional television industry subject to outdated and burdensome regulations, which increase the cost of doing business, impair investment in innovation and content, and stifle competition. In contrast, streaming platforms continue to grow steadily in Latin America, thanks in the main to the fact that they operate in an unregulated parallel universe. Such market distortion, prompted by anachronic regulatory structures, is definitely one of the biggest challenges the audiovisual industry is currently facing in Latin America.
What data protection policies does DIRECTV have, and have they changed since the pandemic?
DIRECTV is truly a customer centric company. Here, our subscribers are at the center of all business decisions, and that is no different when it comes to data protection. We know how much our subscribers value their personal data and protecting it is not only a legal obligation, but a value proposition and a solemn commitment.
As with many other industries, the pandemic intensified direct-to-consumer interactions, strengthened the presence of digital channels, and created new opportunities to bring more products and services to the customer. Those changes did not come without their own legal challenges. The way DIRECTV navigates these challenges is by getting to know what customers want and prioritizing their right to choose the services and information they want to receive.
The traditional television industry in Latin America is subject to outdated and burdensome regulations
What are the most significant lessons that your time in the public sector and as an in-house lawyer has taught you?
My years of service at Colombia’s ICT ministry, coupled with the opportunity to be part of DIRECTV in-house legal team, has taught me about the delicate balance that exists between successful public policy and a profitable industry.
The key, I think, is in understanding the virtuous symbiosis that exists between regulation and investment, which I would summarize in three ways; 1) there will be no successful public policy to bridge the digital gap in Latin America if the industry making the necessary investments is not sustainable; 2) to be sustainable in the long term, tech investors need a stable, predictable, light and fair regulatory framework; and 3) the best regulatory framework is one that levels the playing field by minimizing regulatory burdens for all services, while trusting that consumers and competition are the most effective forces to discipline the markets.
In a nutshell, the best regulation is unfettered competition; and the best judges are empowered consumers. Once this has been realized, regulators will have achieved their ultimate goal of promoting sustainable investment to bring connectivity to even the most remote and underserved areas in Latin America.
What does a company like DIRECTV expect from the external legal firms they work with?
Integrity, solid legal knowledge, efficiency, and a deep understanding of our business and competitive stakes it is subject to.
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