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Argentina high court rules anti-monopoly broadcast law constitutional

Argentina's Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled Tuesday that clauses of an anti-monopoly law that will dismantle media conglomerate Grupo Clarin SA (GCLA) [official website] are constitutional. The court upheld [Reuters report] Law 26.522 [text, in Spanish], also known as the "Audiovisual Media Law," ruling [AP report] that it was within the bounds of the constitution, forcing Clarin to sell off some of its assets. The ruling also indicates that the government should compensate license owners for the loss of their rights. The decision is considered a victory for the state, forcing Clarin to reduce its licenses to 24 from the 158 licenses it holds throughout the country and cut down its market share to 35 percent from 47 percent. Clarin objected to articles 41, 45, 48, and 161, which relate to the restriction the number of audiovisual licenses held by a media company and the time limit for those to who have to comply with the law.

The supreme court heard arguments on August 28 and 29. Clarin has argued that Article 161, the most controversial provision, violates the constitution by forcing companies to sell off previously acquired operating licenses. In April an Argentinian appeals court struck down [JURIST report] key parts of the 2009 media law. President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner signed into law [JURIST report] in 2009 the controversial bill giving her government more power to regulate the media, while limiting the power of private media companies. Kirchner claimed that Clarin was trying to bring down her government through biased reporting. Kirchner reportedly blamed her 20 percent approval rating and a mid-term election loss on Clarin, which controls 46 percent of the Argentina cable market, and wanted to pass the media law before losing her Congressional majority in December.

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