FCC fine with Univision Sale gets OK after penalty phase


Federal regulators Tuesday approved the $12.3 billion sale of Univision Communications Inc. to a group of private investors after the Spanish-language network agreed as expected to a $24 million payment to settle allegations that it violated children's TV regulations (HR 2/26).

The investors, Broadcasting Media Partners Inc., also agreed to a compliance plan designed to prevent Univision from violating the rules that require broadcasters to air three hours of educational programming a week.

BMP includes Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group.

"Today, the commission takes an important step in ensuring that broadcasters comply with their public-interest obligations," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said. "This order approves the transfer of Univision and resolves concerns about Univision's compliance with its obligation to serve the educational and informational needs of children."

The United Church of Christ and the National Hispanic Media Coalition challenged the transfer. They argued that a telenovela, "Complices al Rescate" (Friends to the Rescue), shouldn't count toward Univision's weekly educational programming and thus represented a violation of the 1990 Children's Television Act.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps said the fine was a small price to pay for the network's lackadaisical attention to the rules.

"Given how little the FCC demands of its licensees these days when it comes to serving the public interest, those who fail to meet even our minimal standards deserve to be severely rebuked," he said. "Indeed, I hope that the FCC and watchdog groups will continue their work together to examine what programs other licensees claim as 'core' children's programming."

BMP said it plans to wrap up the deal this week.

"This important step paves the way to close BMP's acquisition of Univision," said Joe Uva, who will become Univision CEO.
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