Fierce Battle in Argentina: Grupo Clarin vs. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

2009 media law that limits cable ownership to a 35% national market share in not more than one-quarter of Argentina’s provinces

It’s big media vs. big government, a scenario being played out all over Latin America. But in Argentina, the battle is especially fierce, pitting the country’s media giant, Grupo Clarin, against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has already nationalized the country’s pension funds, its main airline and its biggest oil company.

At issue is a 2009 media law that limits cable ownership to a 35% national market share in not more than one-quarter of Argentina’s provinces.

That hit Clarin in the bottom line.

The media giant controls between 40%-60% of the country’s cable market — depending on whose stats, the government’s or Clairn’s, you believe — 28% of the Internet market, Argentina’s most-watched broadcast network, Artear-Canal 13, three provincial channels, radio stations and the country’s biggest newspaper. Some 80% of Argentine homes have cable, and Clarin’s cable operations contributed to 89% of the company’s revenues in 2012. This year, Clarin posted $254.3 million in first-half operating profi ts from $1.15 billion in sales.

Clarin has fought the law through multiple appeals and counterappeals over the past four years. The supreme court, which heard arguments for the case Aug. 28-29, is expected to make a ruling sometime between October and the end of the year.

Clarin is a key player for Hollywood and U.S. investors. Goldman Sachs holds an 18% equity stake in the company, while its cable operator, CableVision, carries many U.S. channels, including ESPN, Fox Sports, the Disney Channel, HBO, TNT, Warner Channel, Sony, Fox Intl. Channel, E! Entertainment TV, Discovery Channel and History. The media giant is also a partner with Disney in Patagonik Film Group, Argentina’s biggest movie producer.

Some say the law was passed by the Kirschner-controlled house as a political payback after Clarin had a falling out with the administration in 2008, when Clarin’s news coverage sympathized with farmers’ protests over a tax increase. Since then, the government has passed legislation that bans supermarket advertising from newspapers, while Clarin has backed anti-government rallies and used its news outlets to continually allege government corruption. The government has seen its support dwindle in recent months, on the heels of rampant inflation.

Critics of the government call the media law a way to silence a free and independent press. Pro-government forces see it as a way to break a monopoly. At stake is the immediate future of Argentina’s media landscape.

The supreme court’s final judgement is not at all clear, given the political forces at work. La Nacion, an independent newspaper, cited sources close to supreme court president Ricardo Lorenzetti that said succinctly, “The case is highly complex.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Universal Music Says ‘Many’ Suing Artists’ Masters Were Not Damaged in 2008 Fire

    Late Friday the attorneys representing Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac amended their lawsuit against Universal Music Group over damages to their music archives as a result of a 2008 fire. While most of the amended complaint updated details in the original document — adding information about UMG’s alleged lack [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 15 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 15 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Bob Bakish Joe Ianniello

    ViacomCBS Sets Board Members; Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello New Deals Disclosed

    ViacomCBS has unveiled the 13 members of its board of directors and details of new employment contracts for president-CEO Bob Bakish and CBS chairman-CEO Joe Ianniello. The disclosure came Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, six days after Viacom and CBS at long last set an all-stock merger agreement valued at [...]

  • Spotify Announces Upgrades to Family Plan,

    Spotify Announces Upgrades to Family Plan, at No Charge in U.S. and U.K.

    Just days after reports emerged that Spotify is aiming to increase the price of its family plan in its home market of Scandinavia, the streaming giant announced an upgrade to the plan — with no price increase in the U.S. and U.K., where it remains at $14.99 and £15, respectively. A rep for the company [...]

  • Untold Stories Film Program

    Robert De Niro's Company Files $6 Million Suit Against Ex-Employee

    Robert De Niro’s company has filed a $6 million lawsuit against a former employee, accusing her of embezzling money and binge-watching Netflix while on the job. Canal Productions, De Niro’s loan-out company, also accuses Chase Robinson of racking up exorbitant hotel and restaurant charges and using millions of De Niro’s frequent flyer miles for her [...]


    Jay-Z Gets Shade From Kaepernick, Support From Cardi B as NFL Fallout Continues

    UPDATED: If anyone expected the drama surrounding Jay-Z’s deal with the NFL to calm down over the weekend, they were mistaken, as controversy and conversation continued to swirl. The situation grew even more intense late Friday when TMZ reported that Jay is looking to acquire a majority interest in an unspecified NFL team, which would [...]

  • Curiosity Stream Altice

    Altice USA Pacts With John Hendricks' CuriosityStream Service

    Altice USA has set a deal with John Hendricks’ CuriosityStream to expand distribution of the science- and history-focused subscription streaming service. The deal will make CuriosityStream available to all Altice USA’s 4.9 million customers across 21 states, including a big cluster serving New York and Connecticut. Altice also plans to add the CuriosityStream app to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content