Universidad Nacional del Comahue
The media environment in Argentina is characterised by a strong concentration around the Clarín Group, a weakened public system, some innovative online initiatives, and prominent use of social media for news.
Online media already surpass television as an information source. News usage on Facebook is high, and on WhatsApp, YouTube, and Twitter to a lesser extent. However, as in most countries, a significant proportion of this is due to incidental exposure, where people come across news whilst using social media for other reasons. Since 2011, studies have identified Latin America as a region where users spend more time on social media. The social and friendly nature of Latinos often explains this trend, as well as the existence of a relatively young population and the widespread use of smartphones.
Argentina is dominated by news brands from the Clarín Group, who generally support President Macri. The news channel TN, the newspaper Clarín, and radio station Mitre are amongst the most popular offline brands. Clarín.com, TN.com.ar, and the sports paper Olé are important online. The main offline competitor is the channel C5N, which opposes the national government, while on the internet there are Infobae and La Nación. Regional or local media are also prominent news sources both online and offline.
The election of Macri in December 2015, after 12 years of ‘Kirchnerism’, brought important rearrangements to the structure of public and private media. Through decrees, the new government altered the Law of Audiovisual Communication Services, and attenuated or eliminated limits to concentration and cross-ownership of the communication sector to the benefit of Clarín and Telefónica. Radio Nacional modified its programming for the sake of (alleged) plurality and lost much of its audience. The Televisión Pública became less biased but, with the elimination of the programme Fútbol para Todos, was left without television rights for the main football matches, which were transferred to private channels. Thus it also lost viewers and resources.
Brands from the 23 Group, which had enjoyed generous official advertising revenue from the Kirchner government, were left underfunded and entered into a crisis. Something similar happened to Radio Del Plata (on the verge of closure) and Radio America, which was acquired by Perfil. Either because of layoffs, closing of media, or voluntary redundancies, 1,285 jobs were lost in the media during 2016 in Buenos Aires city alone, according to the Sipreba union.1
In TV, new players are entering the market. Fox and Turner acquired the rights to broadcast football and Viacom bought the channel Telefé. La Nación launched the news channel LN+ and Perfil is preparing to broadcast on open television. Printed newspapers cannot halt a structural decline in sales that began in the 1970s but accelerated in the last decade. In 2005, Clarín sold almost 500,000 copies; in January 2017 it continued to lead but only reached 190,000, its lowest figure since 1954. La Nación has suffered less but still fell from 177,000 to 120,000 copies. As a result, redesigns have become frequent. In 2016, both La Nación and La Voz changed to tabloid format after more than 100 years of broadsheet. In the last year, some newspapers have closed, such as La Mañana de Córdoba and Uno of Santa Fe. Others are no longer published every day, such as the centennials Buenos Aires Herald and La Nueva. Clarin closed one printing plant.
Meanwhile, digital editions continue to grow, although their income far from compensates for print losses. In Argentina, models based on free access funded by advertising predominate; just one in ten online users paid for news in the last year. There are, however, sites that try to innovate. Chequeado is a key reference point for fact-checking in Latin America. Vorterix Rock is a cross-platform media source with new artistic and commercial offerings. Radio Cut is an aggregator that lets you listen to different radio stations, trim segments of audio, and share them on social networks. UnoAR is smartphone-centric, and narrates news with memes and gifs. Narrative journalism is also booming with sites like Anfibia, Tucumán Zeta, Revista Ajo, La Tinta, and Salida al Mar. They typically have a more visual design and longer articles.
Many Argentines consider news to be unduly influenced by both commerce and politics. Fake news frequently circulates on both social networks and the mainstream media. Sources have published non-existent deaths, April Fools jokes, and political propaganda. The site Chequeado launched the hashtag #falsoenlasredes in order to identify and correct them.