In Miami, Cuban Americans oppose Democrats’ Spanish-language radio deal

MIAMI — News of a deal to buy Spanish-language radio stations is sparking opposition in Miami, where Cuban exiles describe it as an attempt to stifle conservative voices.

The Latino Media Network, a startup founded by two political strategists who worked for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has reached a $60 million deal to acquire 18 AM and FM stations in ten US cities from from Televisa/Univision. The agreement announced on June 3 must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

These markets are diverse – Hispanics with roots throughout Latin America listen to stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno and Las Vegas. The network said it “will focus on creating content that addresses the different cultural and political nuances that impact different types of Latinos.”

But things are not going well in Miami, where Radio Mambí is popular among hardline Cuban exiles.

“You would have to be deaf and blind not to understand the motivations behind this takeover,” Irina Vilariño, co-owner of a chain of Cuban restaurants in South Florida, said at a press conference organized by a coalition called the Assembly of Cubans. Resistance.

The network has raised a total of $80 million from high-profile investors such as actress Eva Longoria, who is also a Democratic political activist, and former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas, now a critic. of former President Donald Trump. The debt at issue is funded by Lakestar Finance LLC, a company affiliated with Democratic mega-donor George Soros.

The deal was harshly criticized by Republicans in Florida, from the Cuban-American House delegation to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis. Coalition members said they were exploring legal ways to challenge the takeover.

Democrats pointed to certain broadcasts on Radio Mambi and other Spanish-language radio stations when raising concerns about misinformation, particularly after the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol. Republicans say the charges are being used to distract from Democrats’ poor performance among Hispanic voters in South Florida in the 2020 election.

Stephanie Valencia, who helped lead the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama White House, co-founded the Latino Media Network. She heard about four or five months ago that TelevisaUnivision was considering selling radio stations. TelevisaUnivision did not respond to a request for comment on how the deal was reached.

“We didn’t want to miss this opportunity to get so many at once and keep them in Latino hands,” Valencia told The Associated Press, adding that other interested parties didn’t appear to have any Latino programming. .

Valencia said they wanted to ensure a smooth transition.

“We’re going to look at this from a business perspective. How do you keep the spirit of what these stations are? How do we balance journalistic integrity and ensure we create spaces for free expression? ” she says.

One of the most popular commentators, Ninoska Perez, a staunch Trump supporter, assured listeners they were told there would be no major changes.

Martha Flores, who hosts an evening show on Radio Mambí, isn’t sure. She attended the press conference but refused to speak.

“Look at this,” Flores said, raising her watery eyes. “I know I would cry.”

Radio Mambí got its start in the 1980s with support from the Reagan administration and has long received federal funding to air Radio Martí’s anti-communist content in Cuba for an hour after midnight each morning. Cuba, in turn, attempts to block the station’s signal from reaching the island.

Cubans in Miami remember growing up listening to the station in the kitchen or in the car. Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez shared at the press conference that as a girl, she would hear it so much she would get mad at her dad.

“Why do I have to listen to this? Nunez said she would tell her father as he drove her to school. “He insisted. He would never let me change the dial,” Nunez said, adding that she later followed the same tradition with her own daughter.

The group has yet to file with the FCC for the transfer of broadcast licenses. A public comment period will follow. If approved, the startup would take ownership at the end of 2023, after a one-year transition period.

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