April 24, 2014
A fair deal for all, and from all
What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander — if the Clarín Group was obliged to adjust itself to the Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutional status of the 2009 Broadcasting Law last October, Tuesday’s ruling on a balanced distribution of state advertising should be equally binding on all levels of government (and not just the national executive branch most directly affected by the specific case involving television’s Channel 13 owned by the Clarín Group). If last Friday’s editorial rapped Pope Francis over the scant progress towards forming a commission on clerical sex abuse in the last year, we could hardly argue now that the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration has had insufficient time to adjust its state advertising to Supreme Court criteria after very similar rulings with regard to Río Negro (2007) and Perfil (2011) newspapers, plus a warning on this issue in last October’s ruling — not, of course, that the Supreme Court was exactly prompt in deciding the constitutional validity of the Broadcasting Law while the judiciary as a whole is excruciatingly slow. Nor is a Supreme Court ruling optional — as Tuesday’s ruling pointed out, regarding Supreme Court conclusions as a “rhetorical statement” in no way binding would make the Constitution and the separation of powers lose most of their point. The spirit as well as the letter of the law should be respected.
But respected by everybody. City Hall (which spends twice as much on its institutional advertising as the national government in relative terms) is just as ruthlessly discriminatory against media perceived as politically hostile while it would be hard to find a provincial governor who is even-handed with the advertising budget — and certainly not Daniel Scioli (Buenos Aires province) or José Manuel de la Sota (Córdoba). It is time to question a reductionism which sees all media issues as CFK versus Clarín — there are plenty of other discriminatory regimes around the country while as long as the Clarin Group’s adjustment plans admitting its defeat last October continue broadly satisfying AFSCA media watchdog, Telefónica seems to be the more controversial issue at the moment.
If the government and the Supreme Court seem to have problems being on the same page regarding state advertising, perhaps it is time the third branch intervened — Congress should pass a law ensuring a fair deal for all media, regardless of size or political line, and that promotes pluralism at the same time.