Grupo Clarin Submits Plan to Comply With Argentine Media Ruling

Grupo Clarin SA said it plans to divide its audiovisual assets into six units, enabling Argentina’s largest media group to comply with antitrust media legislation.

The Buenos Aires-based company will present its plan to the country’s media regulator today even though it will lodge an appeal with international courts over an Oct. 29 Supreme Court ruling that the 2009 law is constitutional, Clarin said on its website. Clarin shares fell 7.6 percent to 17 pesos at 1:05 p.m. local time.

“We are forced to do this under the threat of confiscation,” Clarin said in the the statement. “This violates the rights not only of Clarin but also of millions of people to be able to access the media and services they freely choose.”

Media regulator Martin Sabbatella said on Nov. 1 that authorities had begun to value Clarin assets in preparation of a forced sale as the group hadn’t presented its own divestment proposals within time limits established by the legislation.

“We need to study the plan to see if it complies with the law,” Sabbatella said on CN23 television channel today.

The seven-member Supreme Court voted to overturn an appeals court ruling that the law limiting media ownership violated the constitution. Clarin shares have dropped 39 percent since the day before the Supreme Court ruling.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who pushed the law through Congress, said the legislation seeks to democratize the media and avoid monopolies. In a 392-page ruling, the court said the government should compensate license owners for the loss of their rights.

‘Favors Freedom’

The law “favors freedom of expression by preventing the concentration of the market,” the court said in a statement accompanying its ruling.

Fernandez, 60, and her government have clashed frequently with Clarin and its owners since 2008, when the government accused the group’s flagship newspaper of biased coverage during a four-month protest by farmers opposing plans to increase export taxes. The government has promoted campaigns against the media group with phrases such as “Clarin Lies.”

To comply with the new limits, Clarin’s cable TV operator Cablevision SA will have to reduce to a maximum of 24 the 158 licenses it holds across the country and pare its market share to 35 percent from 47 percent, according to the company.

Clarin also owns 10 radio stations, four broadcast TV channels and Internet providers. The company posted second-quarter revenue of 3.3 billion pesos ($560 million), an increase of 22 percent from a year earlier.

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