President Fernandez’s controversial ‘Ley de Medios’, or Media Law, was passed in October 2009 with the stated intention of allowing for more equitable distribution of audio-visual media licences. Under the law, two-thirds of all available frequencies are to be allocated specifically to universities, state, and non-profit organisations. These frequencies would come at the expense of the nation’s private media giants, most notably Clarin, the law’s fiercest opponent.
Citing unconstitutionality, Clarin won a suspension on one of the law’s main articles (applied to all media entities) which has lasted for three years. That suspension expires on 7th December, and all media companies who have not yet complied with the law are expected to present plans of compliance by midnight of that day. Clarin is so far the only corporation that has made explicit its intentions of non-compliance, possibly allowing for government seizure of its assets.
We asked Argentines what they think of the law, what they think will happen on the 7th, and to share their views on the state of Argentine media today.
Portraits by Helena Andell.
Fernando Bello, 21, law student, San Pedro
I’m in favour of the Media Law because it gives access to a huge amount of people, for example nongovernmental organisations, or indigenous organisations, that want to give their opinion, their point of view but can’t because it’s all in the hands of big companies like Clarin. They’re just one example, but there are many more. We’ll see what happens. I hope they comply with the law.
Gisela Rubino, 24, student, Parque Chacabuco
With regard to what’s going to happen [on 7th December], I think the law will be upheld. It doesn’t seem bad to me to give power to common people in order to express their opinions, but on the other hand I also feel that it will be a bit controlled by the government, as it is today. It’s going to be a double-edged sword because even though the law will allow for greater participation, there’s going to be control, the people are going to be aligned with the government’s line of thought. Hopefully it won’t turn out that way.
Thaiel Kobryner, 19, high school student, Caballito
Today, the media is very, very exploited. The things they show you on the news don’t have much to do with what we really need to see. You open a newspaper and there’s Messi on the first page, and it has nothing to do with what’s going on in the city. I think that the Media Law could help – the more opinions we have, the more we’ll be able to solve. I think Cristina wants a little more power, but I’m not against that because she’s the president who was elected. But I believe the news we’re going to receive will be just as bad as it is now. There are very few good journalists and even less freedom of expression.
Jose Ravalle, 70, Kendo professor, Mendoza
It’s a problem of sovereignty for the government. The government is autistic. They don’t want to consider the people or anyone for that matter, while on the other hand, the multimedia companies don’t consider the people either when they conduct business. Each one just does what’s convenient for them. The government is trying to absorb the media so that the president can permanently transmit what she wants us to hear, and to shut up the means of communication with which people inform themselves of the truth. I think if it were any other government, 7th December might be a favourable day for Clarin, but this government is not going to give up. They’re going to do whatever they want.
Yanina Oluio, 24, student, Parque Chacabuco
It seems like a good idea to me to have greater access and greater participation for independent media, but at the same time I feel that there’s going to be a degree of control and manipulation that won’t allow the real objective of the law to be fulfilled. It would be great if they could come to a compromise that is fair and that accomplishes the objective they [the government] are proposing.