No Federal Content Commission

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

No Federal Content Commission


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Some Democrats are all hot and bothered about a decision pending at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A proposed merger would put the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. the largest Spanish-language radio company in the country under the control of Univision, the leading Spanish-language media company. Opponents are arguing the case ostensibly on media-ownership grounds, that the resultant entity would have too much control over the Hispanic market. But what those trying to spike the merger really are against is Univision's content, which is not an area the FCC should be regulating.

The heart of the gripe is that Univision which operates Hispanic cable and broadcast television stations, and Internet, publishing and music divisions is run by a Republican. Its newscasts also tend to be favorable to Republican positions. With national elections next year, liberals are worried that a merger will mean HBC's 65 radio stations will help the GOP make inroads into one of the Democratic Party's important constituencies. There were 7.5 million registered Hispanic American voters in the last presidential election. While Bill Clinton got 75 percent of that vote in 1996 and Al Gore 65 percent in 2000, 55 percent now identify themselves as either independents or Republicans, which means they could be up for grabs in 2004.

In this case, all the antitrust angles have been cleared. A competitor, the Spanish Broadcasting System, filed suit opposing the merger on anti-trust grounds, but the case was dismissed in January. Similarly, on March 26, the Justice Department cleared the merger so long as some minor stock-related issues were addressed. After these decisions, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle complained in a May 6 letter to the FCC that approval of the merger "could significantly impact public debate." This makes it clear he is pushing for regulation based on content. …

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