WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Free Press and Mijente urged the Federal Communications Commission to oppose Univision’s request that the agency allow aggregate foreign ownership of as much as 100 percent of the broadcast company’s voting and equity interests.
The move comes as Mexican multimedia company Televisa continues to consolidate its control over Univision, which is the largest provider of Spanish-language media content in the United States. Televisa would gain 40 percent of voting and 36 percent of equity interest in Univision after the transaction.
In a letter to the FCC, Free Press and Mijente state that granting the foreign-ownership request would ”further distance corporate control of Univision stations from the local communities they are licensed to serve.” Allowing foreign ownership far in excess of the FCC’s existing 25-percent cap “would result in less competition, diversity and localism and plainly runs afoul of the Commission’s public interest standard.”
The Spanish-speaking community in the United States has historically opposed foreign ownership of local broadcast stations and has protested its detrimental effects, including programming that excludes dark-skinned Latinx actors in leading roles and barely covers the Latinx experience in the United States. Several rounds of consolidation and restructuring at Univision have resulted in large-scale layoffs that directly impact the broadcaster’s ability to produce local content.
Last week, Mijente launched an online petition calling on Univision and Telemundo, the country’s second-largest Spanish-language network, to shift away from negative and discriminatory depictions of people involved in recent nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. “Their coverage feeds into anti-Black stereotypes,” the petition reads, “which in the extreme can and have been used as justification for anti-Black violence.”
The Free Press-Mijente letter also opposes Univision’s applications to transfer broadcast licenses based on any FCC ruling to allow increased foreign ownership.
Free Press Senior Policy Counsel Carmen Scurato made the following statement:
“As the nation grapples with the legacy of systemic white supremacy and anti-Blackness, we must ensure that communities have greater control over their local media. This is hardly a radical idea: It’s enshrined in the Commission’s central mandate to promote localism, competition and diversity in broadcasting. Unfortunately, the agency has routinely failed to do its job, instead handing over control of broadcast stations and other essential media to consolidated owners and private-equity funds. As a result, way too many broadcast stations have neglected to meet their communities’ needs. It’s scandalous that FCC officials need to be reminded of these failures time and again. Given Univision’s troubled past and the impact that further consolidation would have on local communities, the FCC must deny the company’s bid to transfer more control beyond the reach of the people it serves.”
Mijente National Director Marisa Franco made the following statement:
“The bottom line is that Spanish-speaking people in the United States need thoughtful, accurate information and quality programming. With every round of corporate mergers and transfers of ownership, Univision gets further away from that core purpose. The current bid to sell the company to private equity firms and Televisa would accelerate it. The media landscape presents too few options for the millions of people who need Spanish-language content. Access to information is the bedrock of a democracy. We see the proof of this in the ways coverage of police-brutality protests and the national debate around race and Blackness have been portrayed in a narrow frame with little context or background. We cannot afford for Spanish speakers to be on the margins, lost in translation, during these critical debates on how to address the issues we face and move the country forward. The stakes are simply too high; because of that, we urge the FCC to deny the request to transfer ownership.”