In terms of newspaper circulation, Argentina is Latin America’s most literate nation, and it has a diverse and generally high-quality press. Its television programming is a rather chaotic amalgam of light-entertainment shows and sports, and its radio services tend to fall into one of two categories: urban mainstream commercial channels or amateur ones designed to serve the needs of local rural communities.
Newspapers and magazines
In the past, the fortunes of the print press in Argentina have varied greatly, depending on the prevailing political situation. Overbearing state control and censorship characterized much of the twentieth century, but the current situation is much more dynamic, and a resilient streak of investigative journalism provides a constant stream of stories revolving around official corruption. Self-censorship, though, is fairly widespread, and deep criticism of the country’s institutions is pretty muted in favour of a generally patriotic stance.
The Buenos Aires Herald (w) is South America’s most prestigious English-language daily and dates back to 1876. Although the quality of the writing and editing is a little inconsistent, the Herald is useful for getting the low-down on current events in Argentina and for catching up on international news and sports, as it features stories from the wires as well as syndicated articles from the likes of The New York Times and Britain’s Independent. It is still associated in many minds with the old-style Anglo-Argentine elite, but it won international plaudits for its stand on human rights issues in the years of the military dictatorship. The Herald is easily available in the capital, but don’t expect to find it outside major cities and tourist centres. Look out also for the Argentina Independent (wargentinaindependent.com), a free monthly English-language publication written by and aimed at young expats and visitors, with articles on aspects of life and travel in Argentina.
If you have some Spanish, the most accessible of the national dailies is Clarín (w), the paper with the highest circulation. Despite its mass-market appeal, it is surprisingly highbrow, with politics on page three, followed by a fair-sized economics section, with celebrities usually kept in their place – that is, the “Espectáculos” supplement, which also has good listings of what’s on. The country’s major broadsheet is La Nación (w), the favoured reading of the upper and educated classes. Conservative in some ways, it is also the most international, outward-looking and arguably best written of the Spanish-language newspapers. At the other extreme, Página 12 (w) is a left-leaning paper, originally anti-establishment, that has become the Fernández government’s biggest fan. Popular with students and intellectuals, it requires a pretty good knowledge of the Spanish language and Argentine politics.
Argentina’s regional press is also strong, though the quality varies enormously across the country. A handful of local dailies, such as Mendoza’s Los Andes (w), Córdoba’s La Voz del Interior (w) and Rosario’s La Capital (w), are every bit as informative and well-written as the leading national newspapers, and they contain vital information about tourist attractions, cultural events and travel news. Outside Buenos Aires, you pay a supplement for the nationals, and dailies often don’t arrive till late in the day.
International publications such as Time, Newsweek, The Economist, the Miami Herald and the Daily Telegraph are sold at the kiosks on Calle Florida and in Recoleta in Buenos Aires, and at the capital’s airports, as are some imported European and US magazines. However, check the cover as they can often be long past their publication date; they are also usually so expensive that unless you’re really desperate you’re probably better off with the BA Herald.
Argentina’s most popular radio station, La 100 (99.9FM), plays a fairly standard formula of Latin pop, whereas Rock & Pop (95.9FM) veers, as its name would imply, toward rock and blues. Classical can be heard on Radio Clasica (96.7FM). Neither the BBC World Service nor the Voice of America now broadcast on shortwave to Argentina. Towns are blessed with a remarkable number of small-time radio stations, which are listened to avidly by locals, though they’re rarely likely to appeal to foreign visitors.
There are five national free-to-air television stations, mostly showing a mix of football, soap operas (telenovelas) and chat shows. Even if you can’t understand much, these shows can provide a fascinating glimpse into certain aspects of society. Cable TV, offering many more channels, is common in many mid-range and even budget hotels; the channels you get depend on the cable provider, but often include CNN or BBC World in English, with a myriad of channels playing movies, sports and (mostly American) TV shows, frequently subtitled. Argentine cable news channels include Clarín’s TN (Telenoticias) and the unique Crónica, a budget Buenos Aires-based news channel that provides live, unedited coverage of anything that happens in the city; indeed, it is said that the Crónica vans often arrive before the police do.