Argentina's government has found an ally in its campaign to force its leading media opponent, Grupo Clarin, to comply with the nation's law against media monopolies.
Broadcast media regulator Martin Sabbattella said Wednesday that Clarin's minority partner in its Cablevision TV network wants the media company to sell off its controlling stake and thus comply with the law.
Sabbatella said a proposal from Fintech Advisory Inc., a New York-based investment fund that owns 40 percent of Cablevision, arrived at his offices Wednesday, ahead of a Friday deadline for media companies whose properties exceed the law's limits to present their divestment plans. Any company that doesn't comply will have its radio and television licenses auctioned off by the government, he said.
Fintech "wants to prevent the damage that could happen, so it's proposing that Clarin pull out of Cablevision, sell its 60 percent, and this way Cablevision can comply with the law," Sabbatella said, appearing jubilant at an impromptu news conference.
"This attitude is reasonable, responsible, because they want to be within the law," Sabbatella said. "Now of course they have to convince others inside the company of their point of view."
The cable TV network's profits have helped Grupo Clarin become one of the most powerful media companies in Latin America. Limiting that power is a primary goal of the government of President Cristina Fernandez, which is pushing the anti-monopoly law in the name of freedom of expression. Media groups, for their part, say Fernandez is out to destroy her opponents and control information in Argentina.
Clarin says it is challenging the law as a violation of property rights, among other problem, and has said that it won't present any divestment plan until the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality.
Clarin spokesman Martin Etchevers said Clarin and Cablevision had no role in the Fintech presentation, and did not approve of it. Grupo Clarin is waiting for a ruling on the merits over the constitutionality, or an injunction delaying its enforcement, just like the Supreme Court ordered, Etchevers said.