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October 31, 2014

Media Law

Friday, May 16, 2014

AFSCA: All adjustment plans will move at Clarín Group’s pace

By Federico Poore
Herald Staff
The AFSCA media watchdog will not give final approval to adjustement plans presented by Telefónica and Vila-Manzano conglomerates in order to comply with the Broadcast Media Law before it deals with the proposal submitted by media giant Clarín Group, a high source from AFSCA told the Herald yesterday.

“It will all go at the same pace as the Clarín decision,” the source said last night.

The department intends to avoid giving the media conglomerate reasons to “cheat” when presenting AFSCA a list of buyers for the excess licences — as executives and legal representatives from Clarín had referred in the past to the original proposal by businessman Daniel Vila to sell exceeding media outlets to her daughter Barbarita Vila and the intention by Spanish group Telefónica to deny ties with broadcast channel Telefé.

While Vila removed his daugher from the list of beneficiaries, many of his relatives remained in the list — but there has not been a final word as yet on this plan.

AFSCA representatives also revealed they’re “ready” to carry out a “forced divestment plan” if the group headed by CEO Héctor Magnetto tries to evade the law by transferring the company’s ownership to the relatives of stakeholders.

“We wanted to prove to them that they were not treated any differently,” the source added.

Proposal

This week, the Clarín Group presented a proposal before the CNV securities regulator to divide its flagship cable TV channel Cablevisión into three independent business units, as part of its plan to divide the conglomerate in six companies to comply with the law passed in 2009.

Yesterday, newspaper Clarín reported on this new “progress” regarding the group’s adjustment plans as well as its willingness to sell four different units to other buyers. In this context, the group blamed the AFSCA media watchdog and other government offices for “delaying the necessary paperwork” to move on with the proposal.

But AFSCA insisted the only one delaying implementation of their proposed plan is the media company itself, who has not yet presented names of buyers even though they need to do that in orde for the department to definitely approve the presentation.

“We’re the ones waiting for Clarín to identify the names of potential buyers,” another AFSCA source told the Herald last night.

Clarín’s adjustment plan was approved in general by the media watchdog on February 17. The decision was unanimous, meaning it also received favourable votes from opposition representatives Marcelo Stubrin (UCR) and Gerardo Milman (Broad Progressive Front).

The group was given 180 days to present a list of buyers, but AFSCA insists that this six-month time span comprises all related operations, meaning they need the names “now.”

Clarín’s arguments

In November last year, following a Supreme Court ruling that deemed the anti-trust law constitutional, Clarín announced its decision was to divide the conglomerate into six separate companies.

The media conglomerate told the CNV its intention was to keep a smaller Clarín Group that would comprise of broadcast TV channel Canal 13, news channel Todo Noticias (TN), other TV channels from Córdoba and Bariloche and popular AM radio station Radio Mitre — as well as 24 cable licences currently controlled by Cablevisión.

This new version of the Clarín Group will be led by current majority stakeholders Ernestina Herrera de Noble, Héctor Magnetto, José Antonio Aranda and Lucio Rafael Pagliaro.

A second unit including another 24 cable licences (mainly from Buenos Aires City and the BA province), Internet service provider Fibertel and cable channel Metro will conform the new Cablevisión Group. The names of of potential buyers are yet to be revealed.

A third company with 20 Cablevisión licences; a fourth division with cable channels Magazine, Volver, Quiero, Canal Rural, TyC Sports and TyC Max; a fifth unit with radio stations in Tucumán, Bariloche, Santa Fe and Bahía Blanca; and a sixth company including Channel 7 of Bahía Blanca and Channel 9 of Mendoza will be also put for sale, the conglomerate reported.

@fedebillie

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