Friday, 18 December 2009

Audiovisual Services – the Media law in Argentina has found a barrier


Weeks ago we brought to your attention the sets of regulations seeking to control the content of the media and its activities in Latin America.
Yesterday, a Court in Argentina suspended two articles of the Audiovisual Media Law for considering that they could affect retroactively property rights and legal rights. Moreover, it considers that the articles are unconstitutional. This precautionary measure, requested by the Clarin Group, the largest media conglomerate in the country, is the first ruling against the controversial media law; however, the ruling which is provisional, will surely be appealed by the Government.

The law was enacted in October this year. The government, which promoted the initiative, has interpreted the law as a way to democratise the media in Argentina, while some sectors of the opposition and newspaper groups saw the new law as giving the executive higher power over the media.

The resolution suspends the application of Article 41 and 161 of the law. The first Article regulates licenses and shares in the audiovisual communication service. That said, companies can only transfer and/or sell licenses and or shares through permits granted by a new Authority in which the government has a majority of five directors on a total of seven. The issue is that the text states that a company cannot have more than ten licenses of radio and television (Article 45 (1)(b)), and cannot hold a broadcast television channel and one of cable in one locality (Article 45 (1)(a)). So, it means for example that those companies with more licenses than those permitted by the new law are obliged to sell and need to do so following the procedure – by authorisation.

Article 161 sets the minimal period of one year to media owners to be suited to the limits set by law. This week, the government has already put in place the Enforcement Authority, with the intention to begin forcing the media to sell within a year.

I believe that the judge rightly ruled that the law produces "irreparable damage", not to mention that it violates the right of ownership over the investment made in the sector.

You can read the newspapers here and here.
Audiovisual Media Law here.

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