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FCC Okays Univision Sale

Mar 27, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communication Commission today gave the final OK for the nearly $12.3 billion deal taking Univision Communications private. The decision came only after the Spanish media giant agreed to pay $24 million to settle charges of its stations airing soap operas as kids shows, violating kids programming obligations.

The fine, the largest ever for the FCC, had been disclosed early by FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin and resulted from challenges to license renewals of Univision’s Cleveland and San Francisco stations filed by the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. The groups argued the Spanish-language teen telenovelas that Univision aired as children’s programming weren’t in fact children’s programming.

With today’s approval the five firms making up Broadcasting Media Partners — Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners — could make the acquisition final within hours.

Broadcasting Media Partners announced in February that OMD Worldwide president-CEO Joe Uva will become Univision’s CEO effective April 1.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps while approving the deal expressed some concern about whether the companies buying Univision will have sufficient financial resources.

“I think it is quite significant that today’s transaction involves the transfer of 114 full-power TV and radio licenses from a public corporation — one whose stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is included in the S&P 500 — to five private equity firms,” Mr. Copps said.

“The Commission has never analyzed the consequences of this type of transaction for its ability to ensure that licensees protect, serve and sustain the public interest. 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.”

(Editor: Romanelli)