Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lemming Tracks: Argentina's Government Pulls the Plug on Grupo Carlin

"Argentina orders Internet provider shut down"
The Associated Pres, via Breitbart (August 20, 2010)

"Argentina's government on Friday ordered the closure one of the nation's three leading Internet providers, demanding that Grupo Clarin immediately inform 'each and every one' of its more than 1 million customers that they have 90 days to find new ways of getting online.

"The order says Grupo Clarin—which has grown through mergers to become one of Latin America's leading media companies—illegally absorbed the Fibertel company through its Cablevision subsidiary in January 2009 because it failed to obtain prior approval from the commerce secretary.

"Cablevision denied that Friday, citing a previous approval obtained in 2003, and planned to appeal, accusing the government of continuing a campaign to stifle opposition viewpoints.

"President Cristina Fernandez has made dismantling Grupo Clarin a priority of her government. A new law that has been challenged in court would force the company to break apart in a drive to dissolve media monopolies.

The immediate effect of taking Fibertel offline may actually reduce competition for high-speed Internet access in Argentina,...

Repeating that third paragraph, with emphasis added:

"...Cablevision denied that Friday, citing a previous approval obtained in 2003, and planned to appeal, accusing the government of continuing a campaign to stifle opposition viewpoints...."
Argentina tells Clarin's Fibertel to quit market"
Reuters UK (August 19, 2010)

"Argentina's government said on Thursday that leading Internet provider Fibertel, part of mammoth media conglomerate Grupo Clarin (CLA.BA), must cease operations, and users will have 90 days to switch companies.

"President Cristina Fernandez is at loggerheads with top daily newspaper Clarin, which she accuses of lying to undermine her government...."

She could be right. Or, she could not like the idea of people not agreeing with her: and be in a position to silence them.

Unintended Consequences?

It could be sheer coincidence that a media company which doesn't see eye-to-eye with Argentina's government just happens to get its plug pulled. By an anti-monopoly measure that reduces competition in that sector of Argentina's economy.

Granted, national governments can do stupid things.

On the other hand, when an 'anti-monopoly' measure decreases competition while silencing opposition voices: I think that stupidity isn't the only possible explanation.

It Can't Happen Here?

I've written about this before (February 1, 2010)

I think it's prudent, when a good-looking spunky girl reporter says the government should defend her from nasty online predators, or when an earnest upholder of something frightfully important warns of dire dangers of those unregulated bloggers: to stop, take a deep breath, and think.

Do we really want big daddy in Washington (or whichever city your country's seat of government is) deciding who's allowed to say what?

Is that overstating the issue? Maybe.

Or, maybe not.

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