Hispanic Rep.: Separate-market push 'segregation'

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Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) has weighed in with the Federal Communications
Commission in favor of the merger of Univision Communications Inc. and Hispanic
Broadcasting Corp. and of treating the Spanish-language market as part of the
overall media landscape.

In a letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, he said that to treat the market
separately, as some have argued, is tantamount to segregation. Instead, he
added, the two companies should be allowed to create a Hispanic company on a
scale to compete with ABC/The Walt Disney Co., NBC/Telemundo Communications
Group Inc. and Viacom Inc./Infinity Broadcasting Corp.

The commission’s Republican majority is expected to approve the $3.5 billion
deal (the Department of Justice has already signed off) perhaps as early as this
week or next. That would be fine with Serrano, who urged the commission to get
on with it, pointing out that the 180-day self-imposed deadline on merger
reviews has "long passed."

Numerous Hispanic congressmen have argued that the Hispanic market should be
treated, for regulatory purposes, as a separate market, in which case the merger
would give the new company too much control, they said, since it combines the
top Hispanic TV and radio owners.

By contrast, Serrano -- a seven-term congressman representing the Bronx and
himself a Hispanic -- argued in the letter that separating the market will
create a "separate but unequal" category of Spanish stations that should be
"offensive to all Americans."

Serrano said he is "alarmed by the efforts of some to segregate by regulation
those broadcast stations that choose to serve Hispanic audiences."

If commissioners decide that the Spanish-language market is separate, the
merger would likely be conditioned on forced divestitures. DOJ approval already
requires Univision to sell most of its interest in Spanish-language broadcaster
Entravision Communications Corp.

One reason why the decision has yet to be announced is that the FCC is said
to have been deciding whether the merger should be considered under old or new
media rules affecting radio-station ownership. If tighter new rules apply,
Univision may have to sell stations in Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix and
Albuquerque, N.M.

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