- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Univision Communications Inc. took out full-page advertisements in several newspapers this week to defend its purchase of a Spanish-language radio company, saying the deal will not place too much media power in non-Hispanic hands.

Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language television company, announced plans last year to acquire Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., the largest owner of Spanish-language radio stations in the United States.

The deal is valued at between $2 billion and $3.5 billion. It has come under fire from two sides: a Hispanic Broadcasting rival who says the combined companies will be too big and controlled by non-Hispanics; and congressional Democrats, who fear it would lead to a conservative takeover of the nation’s Spanish-language airwaves.

“Both points are in error,” former Univision President Henry G. Cisneros wrote in an ad published in Tuesday’s editions of The Washington Times, The Washington Post, the New York Times and other newspapers.

The ad, billed as an open letter from Mr. Cisneros to congressional leaders, marked the first time Univision has responded to the criticism. Mr. Cisneros, who is now chairman and chief executive of a San Antonio real estate company, wrote in the ad that he “knows the company well but is free from any financial stake” in the matter.

Stephanie Pillersdorf, a Univision spokeswoman, said: “We have been lax in responding to the falsehoods, but we’re starting to fight back now. Much of the criticism leveled against us is just factually wrong.”

Univision owns two broadcast television networks, a cable channel and about 50 local stations. Its acquisition of Dallas-based Hispanic Broadcasting would give it more than 65 radio stations in many of the nation’s largest cities.

The combined companies will control 91 percent of the nation’s fast-growing Spanish-language market, and 6 percent of all media in the United States, according to David W. Miller, a senior vice president for investment bank Sanders Morris Harris who tracks the media industry.

“Will it be a monopoly? It all depends on how you look at it,” Mr. Miller said.

The Justice Department approved the deal in March after Univision agreed to cut its stake in a group of competing radio stations.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to decide whether it will endorse the deal after Monday, when it is scheduled to vote on an overhaul of media ownership rules for newspapers and television stations.

Spanish Broadcasting System Inc., the Hispanic broadcasting rival that has fought the merger, is one of the primary backers of the National Hispanic Policy Institute, an advocacy group that has run advertisements in The Washington Times and other papers criticizing the deal.

Spanish Broadcasting referred all calls to its lead lobbyist, P.C. Koch, who could not be reached before deadline.

Mr. Cisneros, who served as President Clinton’s first housing secretary and was Univision’s president from 1997 until 2000, acknowledged in Tuesday’s ads that the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, A. Jerrold Perenchio, is not Hispanic. However, half the company’s board of directors is composed of Hispanics, and Hispanics fill the key management positions, Mr. Cisneros wrote.

Clear Channel Communications Inc., the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, owns about 30 percent of Hispanic Broadcasting. Its stake in the combined Univision-Hispanic Broadcasting will be 3 percent, Mr. Cisneros wrote.

He also discounted charges by Democrats that Mr. Perenchio, a registered Republican, would influence the news and public affairs programming produced by Univision and Hispanic Broadcasting.

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