Argentina’s Clarín drafts plan to divide into 6 companies to comply with media law

By Paola Nalvarte and Travis Knoll

The Argentine media conglomerate Grupo Clarín has drafted a plan to comply with the country's media law that would consist in dividing its audiovisual licenses between six business units.​

Clarín announced its proposal after the Argentine Supreme Court declared the law constitutional last week. Cristina Fernandez's government offered Grupo Clarín the opportunity to submit a compliance plan before enforcing it.

However, Clarín stated that it presented the proposal to avoid any appropriation by the government and that it will implement it only when forced to do so, AP reported. Clarín said it will continue litigating and will take the case to the international courts.

"This does not imply, even remotely, that we will resign to our principles or surrender our rights, which will be defended to the very end," Clarín said in a statement.

Even though journalists with Clarín and newspaper La Nación denounced the threats to freedom of opinion in their country during a hearing with the Organization of American States, members of the organization's Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) praised the law and expressed their support for the policies promoted by the government of Cristina Fernández in favor of freedom of expression and media democratization.

The Argentine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the media law on Oct. 29, putting an end to the four-year trial that Clarín held against the government after questioning Articles 45 and 161 of the law.

Argentina’s media law would restrict national ownership of open signal frequency licenses up to 10 on both radio and television, and 24 licenses for cable television services. It also prohibits a company from possessing both an open television and cable license in the same location.

Clarín Group currently has 12 audiovisual licenses, with a variety of radio, broadcast television and cable networks, like Canal Trece and Cablevisión in Buenos Aires, among others.

The Supreme Court ruling sparked opinions for and against it, even among international organizations that defend freedom of the press. Reporters Without Borders reiterated their support for the media law’s stated intention of promoting a plurality of voices, but criticized the favoritism involved in the distribution of advertising revenues to outlets sympathetic to the government.

Meanwhile, the Inter American Press Association said it respected the Court's ruling but disagreed with it.  “We respect the court’s decision but we do not agree with it, especially in view of the state of freedom of expression in Argentina, which has deteriorated as a result of the government’s constant attacks on critical and independent voices,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

In a 2012 report, the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded that the confrontation between the government and the press affected the access of Argentine citizens to objective information.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.