December 12, 2013
Some of my best amici...
There is no chance of clustering two days of intense debate on the Broadcasting Law into this space, especially since the presentations were highly technical at times but this aridity is actually the best news to emerge from the hearing — at last a mature and serious discussion of this issue, free from such bluster as a tyrannical government trampling on freedom of speech or Clarín Group CEO Héctor Magnetto as the devil incarnate. And the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration should feel that it will ultimately gain from this law being judged on its considerable merits instead of such fireworks, even if this hearing firstly seemed to have deepened a post-primary pessimism in CFK circles. After four long years with everything apparently said and done, many Kirchnerites were afraid that this hearing would be merely a showcase of even-handedness in order to come up with a ruling favouring Clarín in the next few weeks — by upholding the law in whole or in part but giving the multimedia holding time until the next government. But after the last two days, the hearing seems the best scenario for the Broadcasting Law after several months of government errors.
The most solid presentation yesterday came from a previous member of AFSCA watchdog, Graciana Peñafort, and this suggests that politicizing this issue in the last couple of years may have been counterproductive. The polarization between the government and the Clarín Group confuses the issue although this dispute remains the heart of the matter — this is all about Clarín yet not about Clarín at the same time. Ironically enough, the strongest case for identifying Clarín as the problem came not from government supporters but from Clarín’s own lawyers yesterday — they argued in so many words that media concentration is the only antidote to “authoritarian” government (a dangerous argument which also begs the question of what happens to freedom if the two sides join forces, as between 2003 and 2007). But Clarín is also overrated, magnified out of its real importance by the government’s obsessive feud. and would be increasingly irrelevant in the age of Internet had it not been made a prime vehicle of information technology. Thus even if this week’s amici curiae were invariably enlisted by either the government or the Clarín Group, it is important to look beyond this dispute to appreciate this Broadcasting Law’s roots in United States and Europe legislation and why it enjoys the approval of the United Nations rapporteur, for example.
Why has it taken nearly four years to bring the definition of media parameters out of the boxing-ring?