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Univision must sell 3 Puerto Rico TV stations as part of larger deal

The Federal Communications Commission gave its go-ahead to the sale of certain subsidiaries of Univision to investors Searchlight and ForgeLight and Grupo Televisa — but the deal is conditioned to the sale of three of Univision’s television stations in Puerto Rico.

According to an order issued by the FCC’s Mass Media Bureau, Univision will have to divest WLII-DT (Ch. 11) in Caguas and its two satellite stations, WSUR-DT and WOLE-DT, both in Ponce, to comply with the agency’s Local Television Ownership Rule, which limits the number of broadcast stations — radio and TV — an entity can own in a given market.

An entity is permitted to own up to two television stations, and several radio stations depending on the size of the market.

Univision has already announced plans for the three TV stations that it must sell in Puerto Rico. In August 2020, it announced it had reached an agreement to sell WLII‑DT, WSUR-DT and WOLE-DT to Liberman Media Group, a Hispanic media company based in Burbank, California. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are confident that the Liberman Media team, as a veteran Spanish-language broadcaster, is the right buyer for these Puerto Rico TV stations,” said Vince Sadusky, CEO of Univision.  “We thank our employees at these stations for their hard work and dedication, and we wish them all the best in this next chapter.”

The transaction the Mass Media Bureau approved dates to February 2020, when Univision Holdings announced a definitive agreement in which Searchlight and ForgeLight would acquire 64% majority ownership interest in Univision, while partner Televisa would retain its 36% stake.

“We grant the applications conditioned upon consummation of the sale of stations WLII, WSUR-DT, and WOLE-DT occurring prior to or concurrent with the instant transaction,” the FCC’s Mass Media Bureau said.

In its order, the agency explained another issue related to the transaction, that if unaddressed, could further add to a possible breach of the ownership rule. As part of the review process, Searchlight funds disclosed that it has an interest in Hemisphere Media Group, which is the parent company of WAPA-TV, Puerto Rico’s largest local television station.

After complying with the FCC’s mandate, Univision will still own WSTE-DT (Teleisla, Ch. 7) in Ponce and W21CX-D — WOLE-DT’s digital translator (Ch. 21) — in Mayagüez.

“We find that that the record presents no substantial and material question of fact as to whether the transaction serves the public interest. We next find that approval of the proposed transfer of control would be in the public interest and grant the applications —including the request for a continuing satellite exception — conditioned upon divestiture of overlap stations in Puerto Rico,” the Mass Media Bureau said in its order.

Univision will not be required to transfer any of its radio stations in Puerto Rico — namely WKAQ and sister station WUKQ — under the Mass Media Bureau’s order.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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