Victory for Clarin as court rules media law is unconstitutional

19 Apr 2013

An Argentine federal appeals court has ruled that key parts of the government’s controversial media law are unconstitutional, writes Dow Jones Newswires. The latest ruling is a victory for media giant Grupo Clarin, which would have been forced to divest some of its assets under the law. The court’s decision, which the government will appeal at the Supreme Court, said the law would arbitrarily and unconstitutionally limit Clarin’s right to hold multiple cable television and broadcast TV licences. It would negatively affect customers by limiting competition while restricting Clarin’s right to freedom of expression. The court said neither Congress nor the executive branch had offered a ‘reasonable explanation’ for how curbing Clarin’s licences and market share would serve anyone’s interest. The decision comes as President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is pushing Congress to pass controversial legislation that would reform the justice system. Clarin, which owns local cableco Cablevision, broadband provider FiberTel and a number of TV channels, has been accused by the president of biased reporting against her administration.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that in December 2009 Clarin won a three-year court suspension of Article 161 of the Audiovisual Communication Law, which states that companies exceeding licence limits set forth by the law must make divestments within one year. The precautionary measure was due to mature on 7 December 2012, and from that date the government said it planned to auction off Clarin’s licences that exceed legal limits (158 TV licences, one for each of the cities in which it offers cable and internet, and 134 more than the 24 allowed) if it failed to comply with the law. In December 2012 Clarin won a temporary extension of the injunction, but later that month a lower court judge ruled that the media law was in fact constitutional. Clarin immediately appealed the ruling to the federal appeals court, automatically suspending the decision until it could be confirmed or rejected by a higher court.

Argentina, Cablevision (FiberTel)