Commission grants conditioned approval of HBC, Univision deal

The FCC last week approved the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.’s (HBC) transfer of broadcast licenses to Univision Communications with certain conditions.

Before the approval, HBC owned or controlled 68 radio licenses (18 AM and 50 FM) and six FM translator licenses. Univision owned or controlled 32 full-service broadcast TV licenses.

The FCC found that the merger serves the public interest, convenience and necessity, and that the combined company would not violate the FCC’s current radio and TV cross-ownership rule (nor does the transaction violate the FCC’s recently adopted cross-media limits regarding ownership of television and radio stations in the same market).

However, the commission did find that HBC’s ownership of radio stations would violate the FCC’s new Local Radio Ownership Rule in two markets when the new rules become effective. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stayed the effective date of the new rules on Sept. 3. The FCC therefore ordered Univision/HBC to divest the radio stations in the two markets within six months of the court lifting the stay, or when the new ownership rule becomes effective.

According to the commission, the transaction will not adversely affect competition or diversity in any media market. Univision’s TV stations and HBC’s radio stations do not compete in the same product market, FCC records showed.

Factors like the wide variety of programming alternatives available to Spanish-speaking audiences; the ease of entry into the Spanish-language format; and the viewing patterns of Hispanics do not indicate that the Hispanic or Spanish-speaking audience constitutes a separate, insular diversity or competition market, according to the commission. The FCC noted that Spanish speakers likely have more media options available to them today than ever in this country’s history.

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