EspañolThe Argentinean government has announced it will pay for the rights to broadcast all 64 matches of the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Half of the matches will be broadcast live — the opening match, elimination matches of the more highly ranked teams, and every match of the finals — while the remaining 32 will be shown on tape delay.
The announcement was made Tuesday during the official presentation of the World Cup’s schedule, accompanied by a press conference broadcast live on Argentina’s Public Television. Chief of Staff Jorge Capitanich, Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinean Soccer Association (AFA), and Alejandro Sabella, coach of Argentina’s national soccer team, were present during the announcement.
The cost of the broadcast rights for the World Cup, the circulation of the list of players that were invited to form Argentina’s national soccer team, and old controversies surrounding the government’s Soccer for All (FpT) program, have put the sport at the forefront of the media’s attention as of late.
“The transmission of the World Cup is a political decision of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with the objective that all the matches reach every corner of the country,” said Capitanich.
According to a report by La Crónica, the Argentinean government paid US$18 million to the company Torneos y Competencias (Competition and Tournaments) for the exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup. This figure reflects the operational, technical, technological, and logistical costs of transmissions. If any other television station wishes to broadcast the matches, it will have to purchase rights from the Soccer for All (FpT) organization.
This decision to broadcast the World Cup live and accessible to the entire population on free television falls within the scope of the FpT, an initiative undertaken by the government of Cristina Kirchner since 2009 to broadcast first, second, and third division matches of local soccer tournaments.
Before August 2009, these matches could only be seen through the pay-per-view television system. At the time, the decision to launch FpT was announced on national television by the president, who declared: “I do not want a society of kidnappings, neither of people, nor of images, nor goals. 50 percent of the proceeds will be allocated to the Argentinean Soccer Association (AFA), and the rest to promote Olympic sports.” These comments earned her a barrage of criticism for comparing the kidnappings and disappearance of people during the military dictatorship with the alleged “hijacking” of soccer matches by paid television operators.
However, since 2009, the FpT program not only hasn’t brought in the expected profits, it has incurred substantial losses. The chief of staff budgeted total expenditures of AR$1.41 billion (about US$1.7 million) for 2014 in broadcast rights only, without considering the production, logistics, and advertising costs.
Since the program began, total expenditures have increased by 135 percent. These expenses do not take into account the cost of government advertising that is transmitted during every match, amounting to roughly US$90 million. Government sponsored advertisements are the only ads that can be broadcast during local soccer matches, after private advertising was banned in 2010 at the request of former President Nestor Kirchner, despite not holding any formal government position at the time.
Then Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernandez explained the reason for banning private advertising by saying, “When we did the calculation, the total revenue we would get [from private advertising] was an insignificant figure, so it made no sense to give away half the time available for advertising for such a ridiculous amount.”
Soccer for All?
A year ago, Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, declared his opposition to the FpT program. “There was a time when soccer was organized very well without the intervention and manipulation of the national government,” he warned.
In addition, the leader of his political party in the lower House of the Argentinean Congress, Federico Pinedo, proposed a bill regulating government advertising during the broadcast of soccer matches.
“The Soccer for All program, which was supposed to fulfill the objective of broadcasting soccer matches through the open TV system, ended up being a mechanism for disseminating the political propaganda of the ruling party and attacking those who hold different opinions to those of the executive branch,” said Pinedo when he presented the bill.
Following Macri’s statements, the program manager for FpT, Abal Medina, said: “It would be good if he stated his intentions clearly, his vision for the country, which is one of an Argentina for the few.”
Another official who defended the program at the time was the governor of Entre Ríos, who squarely rejected criticism against the initiative. “Those who criticize Soccer for All [referring to the private media conglomerate Clarín Group] are those who defend a business that for years allowed the monopolization of the most popular sport in Argentina by a privileged few, profiting from the common patrimony of all,” said the politician.
In the same vain, journalist Víctor Hugo Morales said, “Soccer for All is a blessing. Before it came to be, all of us who live in Argentina were hostages of the encoded matches, and people had to pay much more than they do now to enjoy soccer. Only 10 percent of the population could watch the games, but today it is a benefit enjoyed by all who live in the country.”