Jun 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Media deal rankles Latino Republicans

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Photo: Anna Rose Layden-Pool/Getty Images

Conservative Cuban American lawmakers have launched a battle over the purchase of 18 influential Hispanic radio stations by a group with progressive ties.

Why it matters: The Latino Media Network’s deal for the TelevisaUnivision stations could transform a large portion of the U.S. Latino media landscape.

Driving the news: In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which must still approve the acquisition, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other lawmakers wrote the group "led by partisan operatives with zero experience in broadcasting" may work to silence certain political viewpoints.

  • "If successful, (the Latino Media Network) could exercise virtually uncontested influence over nearly one-third of all Hispanics across the country. "
  • "Given the importance of the FCC’s stewardship over the limited AM and FM bandwidth available across the United States, we ask that the commission carry out its due diligence and thoughtfully scrutinize the takeover of these stations by a partisan organization."
  • The letter was signed by Rubio and U.S. Reps. Carlos Giménez (R-FL), María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) — all Cuban Americans. U.S. Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) also signed.
  • FCC spokesperson Will Wiquist declined to comment.

Background: Latina activists and entrepreneurs Jess Morales Rocketto and Stephanie Valencia have raised $80 million to launch the Latino Media Network.

  • Both have worked for Democrats in the past.
  • The pair used the money to acquire the radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno, and Las Vegas.
  • Some of the AM stations are talk radio, while others are sports broadcasting affiliates of major pro sports teams. Most of the FM stations are music-focused.

Among them is Miami’s right-wing Radio Mambí, a storied institution among Cuban exiles in Miami.

  • Its conservative bent reflects the anti-communist sentiment of Cubans who came to Miami in the 1960s, but it has also been accused of spreading misinformation about the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • Miami Cubans have begun to speak out against the deal to sell the station.

In a statement, the Latino Media Network was it was committed to "freedom at every level, a concept that is near and dear to the hearts of Miami’s many communities, be that Cubans, Colombians, Haitians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, or otherwise."

  • “The stations we acquired in Miami have been institutions in the Cuban community for decades and Cuba’s freedom is one of their flagship issues. We believe wholeheartedly in that mission, and we will remain true to that spirit of liberty that has guided them over decades."

Reality check: Al Cardenas, former chair of the Florida Republican Party and American Conservative Union, will serve as one of the advisers for the Latino Media Network.

  • The conservative-leaning stations rarely had any liberal voices or advisers.

Don't forget: Cuban Americans also historically owned bilingual and Spanish-language media outlets and magazines in predominantly Mexican American regions of the U.S.

  • Those outlets often spread conservative-leaning information about Cuba and Latin America unchallenged, Ignacio Garcia, a history professor at Brigham Young University, told Axios.

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Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Marco Rubio is a Florida Republican, not a Democrat, and that the anti-communist Cubans came to Miami in the 1960s, not the 1980s.

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