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TV in Argentina has a stabilizing growth.

Last October, Argentina television celebrated its 40th birthday. Of those 40 years, 25 years were run by a strict state monopoly and 15 by private ownership. But we always had Big Brother watching us and continuing to be the source of broadcasting problems, unfair competition, corruption, scandals and high deficits.

During the early 1960's three Australian networks - ABS, CBS, NBC - helped to orchestrate the birth of private television. NBC was linked to Channel 9. From ABC, Leonard Goldson and Don Coyle signed a deal with Channel 11, which gave the opportunity to be the station manager for the following 11 years. Meanwhile, CBS and TimeLife went into partnership with Goar Mestre.

At the beginning of the 1970's, the three networks decided to pull out of the Latin American market. It was only two years later, in August 1974, that old General Juan Peron (who had been re-elected president in 1973) decided to grab all of the private television stations in Buenos Aires, to once again gain control of programming and, especially, national news coverage.

Now, 16 years later, the stations in Buenos Aires have been returned to private operators, as the result of the process of re-privatization.

I'm delighted to be a part of the group which has retrieved Channel 11's license, and which we have been operating since January 1990. Our "baby" - now renamed Telefe - is just two years old. However, in a short time, we have already established ourselves as a leading station a five station market, thanks to a program schedule which basically appeals to young people and family audiences, by means of local productions (comedies), balanced with a good deal of selected American film product. Also, we are now getting into international co-productions.

The picture of Argentina televisions has been shaped by two important factors. The first is that , in the past, since private groups weren't allowed to operate on-air TV channels, in the mid-1970's, they turned to closed circuit and cable systems, which were not regulated. This is the reason why Argentina is the Latin American country with the largest cable operators. here are approximately 1,000 cable systems, ranging from 1,000 to 90,000 subscribers each - with a total count of almost 1,000,000 viewers.

A second element has been the political instability. In the last 40 years, we had 16 different presidents, including five generals and four military juntas. Democracy was reintroduced only recently, thus creating problems of readaptation. In broadcasting, for instance, piracy has become a serious problem; there are approximately 800 illegal radio, cable and television operators who call themselves "free licenses," and are now fighting to be officially recognized as valid broadcasters. They even have their own association called the "Association of Free Broadcasters!" So today, we are faced on one side with a sound policy of deregulation and the other, a catholic broadcasting market.

What will the future bring? Naturally, the consolidation of current network operations; more cable growth with new satellite channels coming from Europe and the US; increasing competition from cable programmers with on-air broadcasting; new VHF stations; and the establishment of the pay TV and /or pay-per-view services.

Our currency - the Austral - is enjoying incredible stability against the dollar, although you need 10,000 Australs to buy one dollar. In January, we cancelled four zeros from our present bills. We will level our currency to equal our dollar one-to-one. Business is growing and we have experienced a substantial increase in the advertising budgets over the last six months. It is true that problems are still great and we know that recovery will take time, patience and wisdom. But, the possibilities are there. Never in the last 20 years have Argentineans and broadcasters looked to the future - not only with hope, but also with rational optimism.

Pedro Simoncini is president of Argentina's Telefe TV Network. The full presentation was delivered before the Int'l Council board last November.
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Title Annotation:Report to NATAS
Author:Simoncini, Pedro
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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