Argentina's Clarin presents plan to divide media assets

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The Argentine media group Clarin presented a plan Monday, November 4, to divide its media assets into six different companies to comply with a controversial media antitrust law.

It announced the move shortly after the head of the authority set up to enforce the law offered assurances that the group would be allowed to keep its most valuable TV and radio licenses.

But the regulator, Martin Sabbatella, said earlier his agency will select the licenses that will be auctioned off after making an assessment of Clarin's holdings.

"We want Clarin to adjust to the law, not to hurt (the group)," said Sabbatella.

Argentina's supreme court upheld the law's constitutionality last Tuesday, October 29, after a long legal battle in which Clarin charged its aim was to bring the independent media under government control.

The company, meanwhile, said it had presented regulators and the court with a "plan of voluntary adherence to the media law's licensing regime, in the face of the government's illegal and de facto move in recent days to take its audiovisual media by force."

It said it had decided to divide its licenses among six different corporate units, each of which would comply with the limits imposed by the law.

Clarin has been highly critical of the administration of President Cristina Kirchner, who has been embroiled in a running feud with its owners.

Passed in 2009, the law says no company can have more than a 35% market share in any category – broadcast television, cable television or radio, according to Sabbatella.

He puts Clarin's market share at 41% in radio, 38% of broadcast television, and 59% of cable television.

The law also says no company can have more than 24 cable television licenses, and Clarin, one of Latin America's largest media conglomerates, has 158.

The company, which had $1.6 billion in revenues in 2011, also owns Argentina's largest circulation newspaper, also called Clarin.

"Clarin is going to keep the licenses with the most economic and symbolic value," Sabbatella said in an interview on National Rock radio.

"The objective is to cause the least harm to the company," Sabbatella said. –