News

October 23, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

The government’s media regulatory agency is forcing a reorganization of the Clarín group under the country’s broadcast media law


Clarín, the country’s major media conglomerate, has proposed its own reorganization but the regulatory agency rejected that proposal on 8 October. The effect is that, five years after the LCSA was adopted, the government will take charge of the Clarín restructuring. The government and the Clarín group continue at odds, with their conflict centring on the requirements of the new broadcast media law. On 8 October, the Federal Audiovisual Communications Authority rejected a breakup plan by Clarín to split the company into six parts. Instead, the agency said that the government would take over the group’s restructuring. Martin Sabbatella, the regulatory agency’s president, said that the voluntary breakup proposal was a “manoeuvre that mocks the spirit of the law.” He cited links that would exist between executives of the new firms and a lack of independence between them. The board of directors of the Authority voted against the Clarín proposal (5 in the majority and 2 abstentions) and declared that the agency would undertake enforcement of the law. Under that decision, the Argentine government will conduct an assessment, followed by a call for bids to buy the company’s broadcast licenses that surpass the new limits that the law imposes. Clarín issued a communiqué that condemned the agency’s action as an “arbitrary and illegal government attempt” designed to “appropriate” media organizations from the group. The company said it would pursue all legal options to defend its rights and carry out the plan that it proposed. “Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for the general principles of the LCSA, which strengthen pluralism and information freedom in the country, and whose application should not reflect the country’s intense political and media polarization,” said Lucie Morillon, the organization’s programme director. “The Federal Authority on Audiovisual Communications Services should show independence and strict respect for the procedures called for in the law in applying the LCSA to the Clarín group.” Since the 2009 passage of the LCSA, the Clarín group and the Kirchner administration have been virtually waging war in the media. The LCSA replaced a regulatory scheme inherited from the dictatorship, with the aim of democratizing the marketplace for broadcast frequencies by limiting media dominance, especially by reducing the maximum number of frequencies that one company could own, and by prohibiting the same firm from owning a broadcast station and operating a cable company in the same community. Clarín, one of the region’s biggest media conglomerates, was obviously the firm most affected. Following a long legal battle, the company must undergo a major divestiture. The conglomerate accuses President Cristina Kirchner of trying to weaken a media chain that is independent and critical of her policies. She, for her part, has repeatedly stated that Clarín serves private interests by manipulating news to oppose the government. Argentine is ranked 55th of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.