Farm strike pulls Argentine audiences

TV viewers tune into protests, news coverage

BUENOS AIRES — A farm strike is topping ratings and altering schedules in Argentina.

Now in its third week, the strike has spurred TV networks to widen coverage as food shortages worsen, prices surge and demonstrations lead to street fights.

Farmers are pressing the government to scrap a new export tax that they say is cutting profits by half in a country that is a global leader in exports of corn, soy, wheat and related products.

After two weeks of protests, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on farm leaders on Friday to end the strike in a speech carried by the five leading broadcasters, few of which rarely interrupt programming for political events.

The primetime address earned a rating of 34.1 points, the equivalent of 3.3 million viewers in the Buenos Aires area, beating the ratings for a Boca Juniors soccer match, the country’s most popular team, on Artear-Canal 13.

With the strike still on this week, networks are expected to continue interrupting programs — primetime dramas “Mujeres asesinas” (Women Killers) and “Un mundo de sensaciones” (A World of Sensations) were preempted last week — for coverage.

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