FCC OKs Univision Sale

NEW YORK The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved the sale of Univision Communications to Broadcasting Media Partners, a group of private equity companies, with certain conditions.

Under a consent decree, Univision has agreed to pay a $24 million fine for violating children’s programming regulations. Univision also agreed to a detailed plan that will ensure its future compliance with the Children’s Television Act and other rules.

Last June, Univision said it would be acquired by a group of private equity companies including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group for $36.25 per share in cash. The transaction was valued at about $13.7 billion, including the assumption of $1.4 billion in debt.

The consent decree settles a complaint in the license renewal proceedings for WQHS-TV in Cleveland and KDTV in San Francisco. Activist groups had argued that Univision’s reliance on airing telenovelas to satisfy its children’s programming requirement was insufficient.

Broadcasters are required to air three hours of kids’ educational programming each week. With its conditional approval of the Univision sale, the FCC sent a clear message that such rules are serious business. “Today the commission takes an important step in ensuring that broadcasters comply with their public interest obligations,” said Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, in a statement.

“Today’s item will most likely be remembered because it imposes a $24 million fine, far and away the commission’s largest ever,” said commissioner Michael Copps. “Indeed this amount is entirely appropriate; it makes clear that violating the commission’s media regulations cannot simply be dismissed as just another cost of doing business.”