August 28, 2008
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Republic of Argentina
Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
Via facsímile: 54-11-4344-3700
Dear President Fernández de Kirchner:
We are concerned that the Federal Broadcasting Committee may have been motivated by editorial issues in ordering the Buenos Aires-basedRadio Continental to stop broadcasting on its FM frequency.
The regulatory agency, also known as COMFER, ruled August 12 that Radio Continental must halt retransmission of its AM programming on its FM frequency, 104.3. COMFER based its decision on Article 68 of the 1980 broadcasting law banning creation of "permanent privately owned networks." The decision, reviewed by CPJ, also cites Article 67 of the law, which bars broadcasters from replicating AM programming on FM frequencies. The 1980 broadcasting law, adopted during military rule, is widely considered to be outdated and out of step with international standards.
Radio Continental and others have also pointed out that Article 68 has been effectively voided by a 1999 presidential decree that specifically allows companies to create permanent privately owned networks. And Radio Continental notes that more than 20 radio stations throughout Argentina retransmit AM programming on FM frequencies. COMFER has not ordered any of those stations to stop broadcasting on FM.
Owned by the Spanish media conglomerate Prisa, Radio Continental began replicating programming on FM because AM interference had left many listeners unable to tune in, according to the station's lawyer, Edmundo Rébora. Continental has appealed the decision to the office of the media secretary and will continue broadcasting on FM until the appeal is resolved.
Local journalists believe COMFER's decision is motivated by the station's editorial stance. Continental harshly criticized high-ranking administration officials during the months-long political crisis triggered by the imposition of a grain export tax increase in March. In an editorial published on Tuesday, for example, the national daily La Nación said that the COMFER's decision appears to be related to the radio station's reporting on the farm policy conflict.
COMFER's decision contradicts your government's stated goal of introducing legislation that will bring the broadcasting law in line with international standards. As you have stated, the 1980 law is outdated and needs to be reformed.
We are troubled by the COMFER's decision, which appears to constitute selective enforcement of an antiquated law. Evidence suggests the decision was politically motivated and designed to punish the station for its criticism of your government. We urge you to instruct the media secretary to analyze the validity of COMFER's decision and to overturn the ruling if the law has not been properly and equitably applied.
Thank you for your attention on this serious matter. We await your prompt response.