The recent revocation, by the Federal Broadcasting Committee of the Argentine Republic, of the license of Angostura Video Cable in the southern city of Bariloche, when it was found that the operator of the service was a cooperative (an entity restricted by law to offer this type of services), and the rejection of the Argentine Association of Cable Television (ATVC) to a decree of the Government of the province of Formosa (in the extreme north of the country) that forces the companies providing cable services to suspend for 180 days the cuts for non-payment of the service, are a sample of the challenges faced by cable operators in that country and the union activities in which ATVC has focused.
"Cable companies in Argentina face commercial and regulatory challenges," says Walter Burzaco, president of ATVC. Commercial, since the market suffers a major recession and the country's economy is not doing well. The high unemployment rate also affects the ability of subscribers to pay and the financing capacity of companies." According to the ATVC, the measure adopted by the government of Formosa is unconstitutional and puts at serious risk the continuity of the provision of services and the work of hundreds of employees of the cable companies.
"In regulatory terms, Burzaco continues, "we have a new broadcasting law ahead of us that rethinks some issues regarding cable regulation." The law that today governs this activity in Argentina was created at the time of the dictatorship and is based on control over the media. On cable activity, specifically, the current law has very few chapters, since it considers it a complementary broadcasting service, for which, over time, cable has always been regulated according to the optics of open television. "This means, for example, that in terms of penalties for content, we have an infinity of fines and things that need to be discussed. All of this is being reviewed." Satellite transmission activities, for example, or those that refer to receiving images from abroad, which today are an everyday thing, have to be incorporated into the new legislation with a perspective more appropriate to current times and technologies.
"Finally there is the government's intention to allow access to licenses to cooperatives," continues the president of ATVC. Something our association opposes." Cooperatives are non-profit societies and by competing in a commercial market with traditional operators, they gain advantages that can be exploited by commercial enterprises disguised as cooperatives. "In addition, many existing cooperatives already provide public services, with which, in their field of action, they have a captive market and officiate as a monopoly. Obviously, if the revenues of that market are applied to offer cable television services, they will wreak havoc among cable operators in the area," concludes Burzaco.
Finally, the executive stressed that among the commercial challenges of cable operators is the constant search to integrate new services, such as broadband internet or premium programming. However, he noted that in recessionary market situations, we must try to incorporate services that do not involve the user spending more, but that a greater proportion of the fixed expenses of the home are channeled through the cable operator. "Stop spending on a traditional internet provider, for example, and get better service through cable broadband."