WASHINGTON - The government will approve Univision Communication Inc.'s $2.8 billion purchase of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., a Federal Communications Commission official said Monday.
The five members of the Republican-dominated commission were submitting their votes and an official announcement was expected by the end of the day, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The two Democrats on the commission have opposed the deal.
Under the plan, Los Angeles-based Univision would acquire HBC's 63 radio stations. The company then would have to sell two radio stations as a condition of the FCC's approval, the official said.
Univision already owns the Univision and TeleFutura TV networks, the Galavision cable network and 50 television stations nationwide.
If the merger is completed, Univision would have the top Spanish-language broadcast TV network, cable channel, record label, Internet site and radio network, as well as the largest group of television and radio stations. The proposed all-stock deal was announced in June 2002.
The requirement to sell radio stations is based on a new set media ownership rules the FCC approved on June 2, the official said. The new rules largely relaxed decades-old restrictions on ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations. However, the changes did tighten some restrictions on radio ownership.
The ownership rules have been a source of fierce debate in Congress and the courts. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia temporarily blocked the regulations from going into effect as scheduled on Thursday.
With the rules in limbo, it is uncertain how the merger might be affected.
Opponents of the merger have said it will limit the news and entertainment choices for Spanish-speaking Americans.
Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System Inc., which owns or operates 27 radio stations in seven of the top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets, has sent the FCC repeated filings claiming the merger would cause too much concentration in Hispanic media.
Univision insists there is broad support for the deal in the Hispanic community and there isn't a separate market for Spanish-language media. The company says it has a relatively small presence in broadcasting overall and it competes with English and Spanish-language networks for advertisers and viewers, who often are bilingual.
Rival network Telemundo and its parent company, NBC, also have complained the deal will harm competition and limit viewpoints. They say half the rapidly growing Hispanic population looks to Spanish-language media as their primary source of news and entertainment and relies heavily on television and radio.
The Justice Department in February approved the merger after Univision agreed to reduce its 27 percent ownership of Entravision Communications Corp. to less than 10 percent over the next six years.
Entravision is the largest owner of Univision TV affiliates and owns 55 radio stations, many of them in the same markets served by Dallas-based HBC.
HBC's stations are concentrated in California, Texas and Florida, with others in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois and New York. They offer programming that includes international top 40, Latino mix, Tejano and sports talk.
Univision has said that under the deal, local radio stations would retain control over their programming.