Legal Jeopardy: Clarín Group and the Kirchners

Abstract

CSJ-10-0033.0 This case is about the relationship between government and media, how media companies should manage that relationship, and the role of media in society. In 2009, the Grupo Clarín in Argentina faced a proposed media reform law that would have a meaningful impact on its bottom line. Grupo Clarín was the largest media conglomerate in the country, and controlled numerous radio and television stations, as well as newspapers. It had enjoyed a close relationship with the governments of President Néstor Kirchner and his wife and successor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. But in 2008, Clarín newspaper’s critical coverage of a controversial farm tax turned them into adversaries. When Fernández championed a media reform law—arguably long overdue—proposed by a group of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Grupo Clarín leadership had some choices to make. It could oppose the law outright, both through its news outlets and as a corporate entity; it could seek to modify the law while accepting that some parts of it are justified; or it could accept it outright as the price of doing business.

Use this case as the basis for student discussion of the role of the press in a democracy, the ideal legal framework for a press to operate, and the competing priorities of media as a business vs. media as news purveyor. With whom do your students agree? With President Fernández and civil society groups, who insist that the reform law—which would cap the number of licenses controlled by media giants and significantly curb Clarín’s influence—would democratize television and radio broadcasting? Or with the legislation’s critics, including Clarín, who argue that it would dangerously increase state influence over media in the still-young Argentine democracy? How should Clarín best manage the situation?

This case can be used in a course on media and democracy; the business of media; international journalism; or strategic management.

Credits

This case was written by Kathleen Gilsinan for the Knight Case Studies Initiative, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. The faculty sponsor was Joshua Friedman, director of the Maria Moors Cabot Awards and adjunct faculty member. Funding was provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. (0810)

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