Argentina media giant Grupo Clarin, which owns local cableco Cablevision, broadband provider FiberTel and a number of TV channels, has said the country’s controversial media law violates private property rights and cannot be enforced, Bloomberg reports, citing company spokesperson Martin Etchevers. Denouncing the unconstitutionality of the law, in December 2009 Clarin won a court suspension of Article 161 of the Audiovisual Communication Law, which states that companies exceeding licence limits set forth by the law must make disinvestments within one year. However, earlier this year the Supreme Court ordered that the three-year precautionary measure will mature on 7 December, meaning that Clarin may be forced to sell some of its assets. Last week, the country’s media regulator Martin Sabbatella said the government will call for an auction of the Clarin’s licences that exceed legal limits (158 TV licences, 134 more than the 24 allowed, according to Etchevers) if it does not act by 7 December, stating that the government will not confiscate or nationalise media companies.
Clarin’s dispute with the administration of President Cristina Fernandez has been ongoing since 2008, when the media group criticised Fernandez’s handling of farmer protests soon after she succeeded her late husband as president. The dispute saw the government block a merger between Cablevision and its sister cable Multicanal on the grounds that the former already held more licences than allowed by local regulations. The merger had earlier been approved by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and National Defence Commission of Competition (CNDC).