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Bill May Aid Argentine B’casters

It has been a poor year for Argentine broadcasters. An eight-month recession has seen last year’s record $2 billion TV ad market contract by at least 15%, and execs expect only flat sales for next year.

Yet a new bill that’s fast-tracking through Congress could bring a positive start to 1996 by halving an 8% tax on broadcaster revenues. The tax goes to FCC-equivalent Comfer, which directs some of the coin to low-performance pubcaster ATC.

The new Broadcast Law, replacing legislation that dates from the military dictatorship of the 1980s, also would remove censorship rights from the hands of Comfer. The bill proposes that censorship powers will rest with the judiciary, which will presumably use them more sparingly and, insiders say, less arbitrarily. TV execs hope that the bill – which, despite its name, also governs cable TV – will gain Chamber of Deputies approval by Christmas and pass to the Senate next year.

President Carlos Menem has backed the bill, but it may have to wait until Congress debates the annual budget.

Industry insiders are confident that the bill’s taxation and censorship proposals will be approved. But another clause, banning telcos from offering video services while allowing cable operators to enter telephony, is bound to meet resistance. “We don’t expect to get a ban; it’s a bargaining position. But we would like to copy the British system and get a window before the telcos start using their networks for TV,” says a TV exec who requested anonymity.

Consensus holds that the telephone duopoly of Telefonica (controlled by Spain’s Telefonica) and Telecom (controlled by France Telecom and STET of Italy) will exchange protection from competition for the right to begin video services in late 1997.

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