Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Pressed

Posted in News and Articles by politicalrisklatam on August 25, 2010

by The Economist, August 25th, 2010.

Ever since Néstor Kirchner became Argentina’s president in 2003, he and Cristina Fernández, his wife and successor, have ruthlessly divided and conquered their political rivals. Their biggest remaining adversary is the Clarín Group, the country’s dominant media conglomerate. The Kirchners have tried to cripple the firm after its television stations and Clarín newspaper gave sympathetic coverage to farmers striking over a tax increase in 2008. During that dispute, the government’s supporters plastered Buenos Aires with posters accusing the company of lying and of serving landed oligarchs. One year later the state broadcaster enticed Argentina’s football association to tear up its contract with a Clarín-owned cable channel and put its matches on public television instead. And last October Congress passed a law expanding the government’s control over broadcast media, which would force Clarín to divest key assets. However, legal challenges have delayed its implementation.

The Kirchners are now launching two new offensives. On August 19th, the government gave Clarín 90 days to close Fibertel, a subsidiary which is Argentina’s biggest cable internet-service provider (ISP) with over 1m users. In 2003, Fibertel began operating jointly with Cablevisión, a cable-television company. Three years later, Clarín bought both firms. However, the two never formalised their merger, and the government’s slow-acting communications regulator never approved the transfer of Fibertel’s ISP licence to Cablevisión. When Clarín did officially register the merger last year, Fibertel ceased to exist—along with its ISP licence. (continue reading… )

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