December 5, 2013
Attention now turns to other media groups
Telefónica, Vila-Manzano, Moneta plans are yet to be approved by AFSCA
As AFSCA begins to analyze Clarín’s proposal to comply with the Broadcast Media Law, questions remain over what will happen to other big media conglomerates.
“Out of 39 proposals, 29 were already under scrutiny by our board of directors,” a source from the AFSCA media watchdog told the Herald yesterday.
In 15 of these cases, AFSCA considered there was “no need for adjustment” as those media groups did not exceed the maximum size or licences allowed by law, the source confirmed.
Proposals were received starting on November 14, 2012 — when media czar Martín Sabbatella revealed the names of the groups with an excess number of licences during a news conference in downtown Buenos Aires — until December 7, 2012, a date that became known in local parlance as 7D.
Throughout this year, only one important disinvestment plan was approved by AFSCA’s board of directors — the one issued by satellite TV provider DirecTV, which vowed to sell one of its two television channels in order to comply with the 2009 law.
It is still “unclear” whether the plan presented by Cristóbal López-owned Grupo Índalo (whichs bought Radio 10, news channel C5N and four FM radio stations, previously owned by media mogul Daniel Hadad) was in fact approved by AFSCA, media expert Santiago Marino told the Herald.
Other approvals were “certainly minor,” Marino emphasized.
Still under scrutiny
Three key cases have remained “under analysis” ever since.
The first is the plan presented by the Telefónica Group, which owns several television stations, including Channel 11 (Telefé, based in Buenos Aires City), Channel 5 (Rosario), Channel 7 (Neuquén), Teleocho (Córdoba), Channel 8 (Mar del Plata), Channel 9 (Bahía Blanca), Channel 11 (Salta), Channel 13 (Santa Fe) as well as 57 relay stations throughout the country.
Controversy surrounded earlier claims made by AFSCA as head Martín Sabbatella alleged that the Spanish-owned Telefónica Group did not “control” Telefónica Argentina — the actual owner of broadcast television channel Telefé.
Be that as it may, the department headed by Sabbatella has not yet decided whether to approve the proposals made by the media group in order to meet the requirements under the law.
Another important group is Mendoza-based cable company Supercanal, which holds several cable licences and enjoys a dominant position in several provincial districts. Its proposal — a 43-page document that reached AFSCA’s headquarters almost a year ago — was neither approved nor rejected by AFSCA.
Supercanal is owned by the Vila-Manzano group, led by media proprietors Daniel Vila and José Luis Manzano, who also own La Red radio, the broadcast television channel Ámerica and dozens of newspapers.
A final case that must still be analyzed is the Moneta-Garfunkel group led by Matías Garfunkel and Raúl Moneta, who are in the middle of a commercial war following their association in 2010 to buy three popular FM radio stations (Rock & Pop, Blue and Metro) and two AM radios (Splendid and Belgrano).
The law says a single company cannot own more than two radio licences in the same region.
The first thing AFSCA needs to analyze is “whether these divisions (into several companies) are OK,” sources from the media watchdog told the Herald.
If companies pass this first test, AFSCA will have to approve (or not) the suggested buyer — taking into account restrictions imposed by the Broadcast Media Law.
More importantly, and in order to be able to reorganize the radioelectrical spectrum, AFSCA must also finish the technical plan the department began three years ago.
This plan — which is being carried out with help of the National Communications Commission (CNC) and the Communications Secretariat — has met several obstacles, mainly the lack of up-to-date instruments to analyze superpositions on the radioelectric spectrum.
“All except for 29 areas are non-conflicting and we’re making lots of progress there,” one of Sabbatella’s advisors at the AFSCA said.
Lorenzetti denies discussing media law with zannini
Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti yesterday denied having spoken with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Legal and Technical Secretary Carlos Zannini about the Broadcast Media Law, claiming that the interview he had given Perfil newspaper last Sunday had misinterpreted his word.
Lorenzetti said he was referring to the issue of drug-trafficking when he answered Jorge Fontevecchia’s question about whether he speaks with Zannini — “I don’t remember the last time we spoke, but we spoke a lot.”
In brackets, the newspaper implied the subject discussed was the Media Law. Perfil supported the clarification that the Supreme Court chief made, saying it had “misinterpreted” his words during an interview that lasted more than two hours.