03.30.2007 12:00 AM
FCC Approves Sale of Univision
The FCC has unanimously approved the sale of Univision Communications Inc. to an investor group for $36.25 per share or about $12.3 billion. The Los Angeles-based media company also agreed to pay a $24 million fine for failing to meet core programming criteria.

The penalty stems from charges that certain Univision stations violated a 1996 law that requires broadcasters to air at least three hours per week of educational and informational programming for children. The stations, including WQHS-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, and KDTV in San Francisco, instead aired Spanish-language telenovelas more appropriate for adult audiences. Univision owns and controls 24 broadcast television stations.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin termed the fine "significant and appropriate," adding, "It reflects the seriousness with which the commission takes its public interest obligations. These requirements are not optional and we expect broadcasters to comply with them. With these commitments by Univision, I believe this transaction is in the public interest."

While fellow Commissioner Michael Copps agreed the fine was appropriate, he had additional concerns. Copps said the FCC has never analyzed the consequences of this type of transaction.

"I, for one, have some real questions about how the assumption of massive amounts of debt will affect a media company's stewardship of the airwaves. I also have concerns about how the shift from public to private ownership will affect the commission's ability to determine which entities have practical control over licensees' editorial decisions and financial strategy," Copps said.

He also said the commission still hasn't decided whether the market for Spanish-language programming should be analyzed separately from English-language TV.

Univision has also agreed to a plan that complies with the Children's Television Act and the commission's rules.

Last September, Univision agreed to be acquired by Broadcasting Media Partners Inc., which includes Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Saban Capital Group. Univision said it expects the deal to close this month.

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