President bails out broadcasters

World Brief

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has extended cable, radio and terrestrial TV broadcasting licenses for an extra 10 years to give the sector greater security despite the country’s volatility.

The government took the measure May 24 to help broadcasters and cablers get their finances in order after the 2001-2002 economic crisis pushed most players to losses as ad coin and subscriptions plunged, costs surged and credit dried up.

Carlos Avila’s America TV and Daniel Hadad’s Canal 9 fell into bankruptcy protection, and leading cablers Cablevision (Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, Fintech Media and Vistone) and Multicanal (Grupo Clarin) defaulted on a combined $1.3 billion in debt.

America and Canal 9’s licenses now run until 2019, while those of top-ranked Telefe (Telefonica of Spain) and No. 2 Artear-Canal 13 (Grupo Clarin) expire in 2025.

As part of the measure, the government ordered broadcasters to launch an education and national culture segment within two years and incorporate digital technology to improve services. Canal 9 has already placed an order for an HDTV transmitter.

Last year Kirchner cut celluloid import duties and implemented a screen quota and continuity system for exhibition to bolster the film industry.

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