Company denies recent contact with AFSCA — but sent letter signed by legal trustee FridayWednesday, January 22, 2014
Clarín vows to modify cable channel grid by February 15
The Clarín Group has vowed to adjust the channel grid of its Cablevisión cable digital service by the end of the month, while its analog services will be modified before February 15, the head of the AFSCA media watchdog Martín Sabbatella said yesterday.
But in what could be seen as another illustration of how the country’s largest media conglomerate is hesitant to acknowledge progress in its adjustment to the 2009 Broadcast Media Law, the Clarín Group denied it had recently set a deadline to make the changes as ordered by AFSCA.
Company sources told the Herald its last presentation to the media watchdog took place on December 23, but two letters seen by this newspaper prove the Clarín Group had in fact issued new submissions to AFSCA on Friday.
The latest statements from Sabbatella were known days after he told the Herald that “on its face” Clarín Group’s proposal to divide itself into six companies to comply with the Broadcast Media Law “meets the requirements of the law” — although yesterday he said that AFSCA’s decision on the conglomerate’s divestment plan will be conditional on adjusting its cable-channel grid.
“We’re glad that the Clarín Group finally realized that we’re no longer living in a time where it can do whatever it wants and began filing the corresponding documents to adjust itself to the law,” the AFSCA head told news channel CN23 — precisely, one of the channels that Clarín had not yet incorporated to its analog services.
The order of the channels in Cablevisión’s grid has long been a bone of contention between the government and its top media foe. The Clarín Group lost a protracted legal battle to contest the ordered changes of its grid that were ordered by a series of 2010 AFSCA resolutions. AFSCA contends Clarín resists including state-run or government-friendly channels to its grid as an illustration of how the conglomerate feels that it is above the law.
“Last December, the company presented a proposal to modify Cablevisión’s grid in order to include (regional TV network) Telesur as the first channel in the international category, Paka Paka as the first in the children’s category and INCAA TV leading the movie channels list,” Sabbatella told news channel C5N.
The company has also agreed to position the state-run TV Pública between the popular broadcast channels Telefé and Channel 13, Sabbatella added.
Changes that had already begun in the digital services will be completed by the end of the month, while in the (still more popular) analog services “the company has said that most of (AFSCA’s) requirements will be fulfilled by February 15.”
“We really would like to see that happen,” Sabbatella added. “We hope to move forward with this (because) if no changes are made in the channel order we will have to understand there’s no will to comply” with the rest of the law.
The official revealed the company had made these promises on January 17.
A (wrong) side of the story
A legal source from Cablevisión yesterday confirmed the media giant had in fact presented a proposal to reorder its cable-channel grid on December 23.
Clarín’s proposal included the establishment of Telesur, Paka Paka and INCAA TV as “heads” of their respective segments, as earlier resolutions by AFSCA had ordered.
However, that same source said the company did not know “how AFSCA came up with (the) February 15 (deadline).”
“We’re surprised that Sabbatella is saying this now, as we haven’t received any notification” on whether AFSCA has approved Clarín’s plan regarding the incorporation of new channels, the Cablevisión representative added.
The media watchdog has not yet approved the conglomerate’s proposal, but the Clarín Group did in fact contact AFSCA on Friday — twice.
Presentations No. 1123 (see screenshot on this page) and 1124, dated January 17, 2014, are signed by Cablevisión SA legal trustee María de los Milagros Páez.
In the first, Cablevisión tells AFSCA the way “grid modifications” will take place and says specifically that “digital channel-grids will be modified during January of the current year, while analog channel-grids will be modified by February 15 of the current year.”
The date, it would seem, was not made up by AFSCA.
In presentation No. 1124, Cablevisión reserves the right not to include news channels 360TV and CN23 on the grounds that the “forced” incorporation of these new TV stations would involve ending current contracts with other private channels — the subject of an ongoing negotiation.