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Showdown looms between Argentina's Kirchner and her biggest media critic

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‘Right to be heard’

This isn’t the first time Clarín and a president have clashed. Numerous bills to regulate the media were introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, but Clarín always played a part in blocking their approval, says Glenn Postolksi, who helped draw up the guidelines on which the current law is based.

Passed in 2009, the legislation supersedes a law from the dictatorship, and is designed to increase the range of voices in TV and radio. No one media group can control more than 35 percent of the market, while not-for-profit organizations will see their share increased to around a third.

“We also have the right to be heard,” says Armando Kispe, a presenter at Radio Pachakuti, a station founded last year for the indigenous communities of Jujuy in northern Argentina. “It would have been very difficult to have established the radio without the law,” Mr. Kispe says, noting it does not rely on public advertising.

A government publicity campaign hails Dec. 7 as a victory for “democracy, diversity, and liberty.” And many Argentines see the media law as an important tool to widen freedom of expression.

“A lot of people here are prisoners of a singular voice,” says Walter Rodas, a retiree from the northern Chaco Province, referring to Clarín’s majority share of the media market. “But now we’ll have true diversity – and that’s for the good of society.”

Critics, though, see the law as less about moving toward democratization of the media and more a blatant attempt to stultify and silence the administration’s adversary, Clarín.

“Clarín will be hugely affected economically,” says former federal communications secretary Henoch Aguiar, who predicts the group stands to lose an initial $1 billion from reduced subscriptions.

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