Argentina, Clarin Dispute Deadline on Asset Sales

Argentina’s government and one its leading critics, Grupo Clarin SA, clashed over President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s decision to enforce a Dec. 7 deadline to break up the country’s biggest media company.

The government announced it will strip most of Buenos Aires-based Clarin’s television and radio licenses even as judges consider a company-requested injunction to block the decision, according to a video statement published yesterday on the website of the nation’s federal communication authority, known as Afsca.

The Supreme Court ruled on May 22 that Clarin has to sell assets to comply with antitrust laws that Congress approved in 2009. The company owns the country’s largest-circulation newspaper as well as TV station Cablevision SA, radio stations, Internet providers and Argentina’s biggest printer. Fernandez’s administration plans to enforce the court’s decision, saying the group’s monopoly must end.

The law “guarantees more plurality of voices and more freedom of expression,” Afsca said. “If Grupo Clarin continues to deny compliance with the law, the state will be obliged to call a public bid, guaranteeing jobs, to allocate those licenses that exceed the maximum authorized by the law.”

Clarin said the law violates constitutional guarantees and that courts had at least one year to decide the legality of the case.

“Even though the government wants to implement something different, on Dec. 7, legally and factually, nothing should happen to the media outlets of Grupo Clarin,” the company said in a video statement posted today on its website. “This isn’t an opinion or an interpretation, it’s what the law says.”

Under the new rules, media companies can hold a maximum of 24 cable-television licenses and 10 “open” licenses, including radio and broadcast TV, Afsca said. Clarin has 240 cable stations, 10 radio and four broadcast TV licenses, according to Afsca.

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