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MTV Pulls South Park Episode in Mexico Over Flag Depiction

MTV says it will not broadcast an episode of the popular US cartoon show South Park due to controversy over the depiction of the Mexican national flag.

The network says it needs permission via a permit from the Mexican government to show the episode inside the country because of a law stating the flag and other national symbols must be handled with respect. There is a 52,590 peso ($4,900) fine for violating the law.

The legislation states “private individuals will give the appropriate respect to the national symbol and handle it with care.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Luis Estrada said the government hasn’t received a request from MTV for permission to air the episode.

MTV revealed the decision in a statement Tuesday, apologizing to Mexican fans of the irreverent cartoon show, but some fans reacted with skepticism to that explanation.

“Has it been censored by the Mexican government?” asked a blogger at the popular MexaBlog, while comments on other websites ridiculed MTV’s decision. Some wondered why the channel did not just pay the fine.

A spokesman for MTV Mexico reassured the BBC that the reason the episode was not shown was that the permit required to show the flag did not arrive in time for the scheduled broadcast.

Entitled Pinewood Derby, the episode attracted keen interest from Mexican media when it was first shown in the US in 2009. The episode also features a Mexican leader, resembling real-life Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who wastes funds and irritates the international community.

Erick Zermeno, spokesperson for MTV Mexico, said that they had decided to yank the entire episode instead of trying to cover the flag artificially to avoid a possible fine from the government.

“We decided not to alter the image because the reaction would have been worse,” says Zermeno.

In 2008, Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio was fined $3,430 for posing nude and wrapped in the Mexican flag in a photo shoot for a Spanish-language version of Cosmopolitan magazine.

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