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Argentina22 August 2008

Radio station stripped of its FM frequency in “absurd and unfair” decision

A decision by the Federal Broadcasting Committee (COMFER), Argentina’s broadcast media regulator, to strip Buenos Aires-based Radio Continental of its FM frequency is “absurd and unfair,” as well as legally questionable, Reporters Without Borders said today. The station has appealed against the measure, which it regards as politically-motivated.

“Many radio stations broadcast on both AM and FM and, unlike Radio Continental, not all of them have the necessary legal documentation for broadcasting on both at the same time,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Where is the logic in depriving Radio Continental - and only Radio Continental - of its FM frequency and allowing it to keep its AM frequency?

The press freedom organisation added : “COMFER’s absurd and discriminatory decision is based on a - later-amended - article in a broadcasting law which was adopted during the military dictatorship and which the present government had promised to repeal (see 2 July release). This measure is legally unsound and politically inept, and suggests that Radio Continental is paying for its editorial decisions. We hope its appeal is successful.”

Owned by the Spanish press group Prisa and broadcasting on FM 104.3. and AM 590, Radio Continental was officially notified by COMFER on 12 August that it was being stripped of its FM frequency under article 68 of Law 22.285 of 15 September 1980, which bans the creation of “permanent privately-owned networks.” The ban was supposedly a reflection of the “national security” concerns of the armed forces, who were running the country at the time.

Radio Continental and Nostalgie Amsud SA, the company that owns the lease on the frequency, filed an appeal on 20 August. In a statement, Radio Continental pointed out that article 68 was made obsolete by a 1999 decree legalising “permanent privately-owned networks,” which was ratified by the federal congress in 2003.

Radio Continental, which claims to have had 100,000 regular FM listeners, recently drew attention to itself by supporting Argentina’s farmers in their dispute with the government over export taxes. As a result, COMFER’s controversial decision is being seen by many as an act of “political revenge.”

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