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A German lesson for both Messrs Kirchner and Magneto

By Tony Pagliaro

Buenos Aires 12.01.06 | Authoritarian Argentina’s President, Néstor Kirchner, could benefit from reading German newspapers. But the Patagonian leftist cannot, since he (like his wife, powerful Senator, Cristina Kirchner) is rather primitive and does not have command of any foreign language, at all. Otherwise he would realize that in most democratic countries there are restrictions to media groups taking national monopolistic positions. Precisely like the one his supporting “Clarín” media empire has enjoyed -for years- in Argentina and is still enjoying.

But this is precisely why Mr. Kirchner and Mr. Héctor Magneto (Clarín’s Chairman) are in bed. They both want power and need each other. Kirchner acts and Magneto uses his empire to constantly “support” him, without any restriction, in exchange for being allowed to continue enjoying his monopolistic highly profitable game. In Germany this is simply not possible. German regulators have just rejected the proposed takeover of the biggest television broadcaster (ProsiebeSat1) by Axel Springer Verlag, Germany’s larger newspaper publisher.

They did so because otherwise the merger could generate a “dominant power over public opinion”, which a real democracy does not tolerate. No monopolistic conglomerates in Germany, therefore.

The German antitrust authority was also ready to block the 3 billion dollars deal because it could concentrate too much advertising power in only one media owner.

The parties to the rejected merger can still appeal the decision that did not allow it to go forward. It is worth to point out that the German Media Commission had suggested that the television stations could be controlled by an independent panel, as a way to secure the approval. The parties, as one could expect, immediately rejected it. They also rejected the suggestion that the main newspaper be sold, prior to the merger. Can you imagine Messrs Kirchner and Magneto accepting any of those proposals to guarantee Argentines that they will not abuse of their monopolistic power?

No, you cannot. Because it goes against the whole purpose of the antidemocratic “marriage” between (i) the Kirchner’s political power; and (ii) Magneto’s media impact, they have managed to carefully put together and operate.

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