TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: FCC Set to Fine Univision a Record $24 Million

FCC Set to Fine Univision a Record $24 Million

NY Times News Wire (
Sat, 24 Feb 2007 19:06:51 -0600

NEW YORK -- Univision Communications Inc., the nation's largest
Spanish-language broadcaster, may face a record-setting $24 million
fine from the Federal Communications Commission for falling short of
regulators' expectations for educational children's programming, a
newspaper reported Saturday.

Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said the agency had decided to
impose the fine to punish Univision for maintaining that soap operas
were educational programs, The New York Times reported. Federal rules
require television broadcasters to air at least three hours a week of
educational shows for children.

"I generally think consumers are better served by less regulation, not
more," Martin told The Times in an interview. "But I also think the
commission has a key role to play in some areas, such as children's
television, and I take those obligations seriously."

Telephone messages for Univision spokespeople in New York and Miami
were not immediately returned Saturday morning. Lawyers for Univision
declined comment, The Times said.

The previous record for an FCC fine was $9 million, assessed against
the telecommunications company Qwest Communications International
Inc. for failing to disclose business relationships with local
competitors in 2004.

Martin has already approved the Univision penalty, a component of a
settlement that will clear the way for Univision to be acquired for
$12.3 billion by a group of private investors, according to The Times.

Shareholders approved the acquisition in September. The investors
include Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence
Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

The full commission is expected to approve the settlement, which would
include plans to air more shows that meet the children's programming
guidelines, the newspaper reported. The settlement would resolve what
regulators say were violations of the guidelines at 24 Univision
stations between 2004 and early 2006.

Univision had maintained that it met children's programming
requirements by broadcasting several telenovelas, or soap operas. They
included "Complices al Rescate," which followed 11-year-old identical
twin girls who switched identities after finding out they had been
separated at birth.

"A significant purpose and key educational objective of this program
is to illustrate how friendship, love and kindness can help overcome
life's adversities," the network's lawyers said in court papers.

But Martin said the FCC was unconvinced. Critics said the show
featured adult plots and complex themes that were ill-suited for young

Information from: The New York Times,

Copyright 2007 New York Times

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