The National Hispanic Media Coalition filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday asking that it deny the sale of the Univision Spanish-language television network and its nine stations to a group that includes Latin American investors.
The coalition, which is made up of 25 Latino organizations, objected to the proposed $550-million sale on the grounds that it would lead to a decline in the amount of U.S.-produced programming on Univision, a loss of jobs for U.S. Latinos and less program diversity.
The group that is seeking to purchase Univision from Hallmark Cards Corp. is led by A. Jerrold Perenchio, an American who was a partner with television producer Norman Lear in Embassy Communications and has owned other television stations, including a Spanish language broadcaster.
The group includes Emilio Azcarraga, the media baron who owns Mexico City-based Grupo Televisa, the world's largest producer and exporter of Spanish-language programming, and Ricardo and Gustavo Cisneros, who own Venevision, Venezuela's largest media group.
"We're filing this petition because we believe this sale would be very detrimental to the Hispanic community," coalition Chairwoman Esther Renteria told a news conference. "We feel it would lead to foreign domination of American television. . . . It would be the same as if someone bought an English-language station and filled it with programming from England and Canada."
Renteria said her group met with Perenchio attorney Bob Cahill recently and determined that, under the new owners, the only programming produced in the United States would be local news shows.
But Cahill said in a phone interview that the origin of programming under the new owners has yet to be determined.
"We're going to provide the community with the best programming that's available, wherever it comes from," Cahill said.
In an application to the FCC filed last month, Perenchio indicated that he reserved the right to fill Univision stations with programming from Mexico and Venezuela. The current programming lineup, established under the auspices of recently departed President Joaquin Blaya, is made up of 50% foreign programming and 50% U.S.-produced programming.
"The programs offered to the venture by Televisa and Venevision will include at least a quantity of programs sufficient to fill a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week broadcast schedule," Perenchio stated in his FCC application.
Cahill said that statement has been misinterpreted by the coalition and others to imply that all programming will definitely come from Mexico and Venezuela.
"It means that we have the right, but no obligation," Cahill said. "It's just an assurance that we have a programming source, but we don't have to take it."
In order to comply with the FCC's foreign ownership rules, the proposed deal is structured so that Perenchio controls a 75% interest in the station group and a 50% interest in the network.