‘‘Issues that should be on the daily agenda are eliminated because they benefit or affect the government or the media companies,’’ said D'Alessandro, the director of the Argentine journalism forum. ‘‘Many sources refuse to talk with certain media organizations, and some media companies only look for sources that agree with their editorial line.’’
Most of the media companies with properties exceeding the law’s limits have submitted their divestment plans. Sabbatella had threatened to show up at Clarin with a notary on Saturday to announce a schedule for auctioning off its non-conforming licenses.
The law limits a single company’s licenses to 24 cable TV systems and 10 broadcast television stations nationwide, and three radio stations in each city. Cable networks could reach no more than 35 percent of the population, and foreign investors would be limited to 30 percent of each company.
While about 20 companies exceed some of these limits, Clarin alone violates all of these clauses, Sabbatella said.
The two sides don’t even agree on how many licenses Clarin has. Sabbatella counts 238 overall, while Clarin counts 11 for broadcast and radio signals and 158 cable licenses, one for each town where Cablevision now operates.
Limiting Cablevision to 24 localities would kill Clarin’s businesses, but the law provides no limits on reaching homes through satellite or telephone lines and Cablevision’s competitors can reach all 2,200 localities in Argentina with a single license. That is not only unfair, but blows apart the claim that Fernandez is promoting diversity, Clarin spokesman Martin Etchevers said.
‘‘This government can’t put up with the existence of independent entities that can have an influence in society,’’ Etchevers said. ‘‘It seems to me the government just wants political control over the media.’’
Clarin used to be an ally, of sorts, to Fernandez and her former husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner. In one of his last acts as president, Kirchner approved the Cablevision merger that enabled the company to become dominant.
Then Fernandez succeeded her husband and tried to raise taxes on commodity exports, hitting the pocketbooks of Argentina’s landowning elites. Clarin came out swinging with critical coverage, and the Kirchners considered it a betrayal. ‘‘What got into you, Clarin?’’ Kirchner famously asked, and the battle was joined.
The Kirchners took a project to reform Argentina’s dictatorship-era media law off the shelf, adding clauses designed exclusively to punish Clarin and pushing it through Congress in 2009. Clarin blocked it with injunctions, and both sides have done all they could to influence the judiciary ever since.
The injunction negating the Friday midnight deadline seriously harms the president’s attempt to show who is boss, said Ignacio Fidanza, director of a website that follows Argentine politics, www.lapoliticaonline.com.
‘‘December 7th had become the single-minded goal of the State of Cristina, and a symbolic question because it meant showing that she dared act against Clarin, that she reduced its power somewhat and that she wasn’t left with mere words,’’ Fidanza said.
The stay came as a relief to Claudio Paolillo, president of IAPA’s press freedom committee. ‘‘It’s the most reasonable thing that could have happened. This country was on the road to a situation with no exit.’’
Michael Warren on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mwarrenap