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Argentina broadcast regulator approves plan to break leading media group into 6 companies

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina's broadcast media regulator gave President Cristina Fernandez a long-awaited victory Monday in her campaign to weaken Grupo Clarin, approving a plan to break the leading Latin American media group into six parts.

Regulator Martin Sabbatella called it "the beginning of the end" for media monopolies in Argentina.

Clarin now has 30 days to present separate buyers that meet government approval for each of the group's six parts.

Sabbatella said in a statement that the government will defend Clarin's right to inform and make opinions, but not its capacity to "impose itself like an economic and monopolistic giant to manipulate public opinion and put conditions on the democracy."

Grupo Clarin said in a statement that it will follow the 2009 law, which was upheld by Argentina's Supreme Court last year. The group currently has a dominant position among independent Argentine media through its cable TV systems, broadcast television and radio stations and Internet access providers as well as its flagship Clarin newspaper and many other publications.

While campaigning in the courts to implement the anti-monopoly law, the Argentine presidency has fostered a media empire of its own, funding and favouring television and radio stations and newspapers and magazines staffed by "advocacy journalists" who support the government. Grupo Clarin said Sabbatella's statement confirms "his lack of impartiality and his intolerance toward the few media organizations that the political power does not control. And it ratifies that the official purpose of the media law is to dismember the few independent voices" that remain in Argentina's broadcast industry.

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